Oct 10, 2023

Posted by: Katelyn Skeen

A Message from the JCC Ranch Camp in Support of our Israeli Community

Dear Ranch Camp Families,

As I digested the news and continue to learn more about the events and violence of this past weekend, I’ve felt my heart ache for our friends and families in Israel. There are no words big enough to comfort each other or provide solace for our emotions. Our Israeli staff, campers, and families, both past, present, and future, have left an indelible impact on our community’s relationship with the people and land of Israel.

Like so many other Ranch Campers, my connection to Israel was born from living with and learning from an Israeli staff member who worked with my cabin during my first summer at camp. The Israeli staff helped create a portal of understanding for me into what it means to be Jewish in the United States, and what it means to be Jewish in Israel and call Israel home. The Ranch Camp experience would not be the same without our Israeli counterparts.

The words of the song that we sing to close all our campfires are closer to me, now more than ever. It’s a song that’s been sung at Ranch Camp for as long as anyone can remember, and it illuminates the core of everything we do:

Olam chesed yibaneh

I will build this world from love

And you must build this world from love

And if we build this world from love

Then G-d will build this world from love

Olam chesed yibaneh

Every summer, we strive to create a community built on a foundation of love. It is our hope that everyone who comes through our gates – be they campers or staff – leaves feeling connected and loved for who they are. This song emulates what we hope to teach our campers and staff: what it means to practice chesed (kindness) toward one another and really live our values.

We practice a tradition on the last day of the camp session where everyone picks up a small rock or rubs a pinch of dirt into their clothes. This signifies the idea that wherever they go, a piece of Ranch Camp will now always be with them and that the community they built at camp is always with them. My hope is that our Ranch Camp community living in Israel finds strength in that small piece of camp – and that they know we are thinking of them and standing in solidarity alongside them. My hope for our broader Ranch Camp community is that everyone knows they are not alone.

In the coming days, as registration for Summer 2024 opens, we have already begun the first steps of creating our Ranch Camp community for 2024. And, like all other summers, we are putting together the elements that spark the Ranch Camp magic that lends to a tight-knit, warm, and connected community. Our team is here and available to listen and process. Lastly, for our returning campers and families, we know how much the Israeli staff have meant to you and want to give you a channel to send your love and support to them. Please use this online message board to share your messages with our Israeli staff.

With love,
Katelyn Skeen
Interim Director | JCC Ranch Camp