At Camp Ramah Berkshires, they call it Yom Palmer. At Camp Ramah Palmer,
it’s Yom Berkshires. At both places, campers spend a large portion of the summer preparing for it.
“It” is an annual athletic competition between the two Conservative movement camps in Wingdale, N.Y., and Palmer, Mass., also known as Camp Ramah in New England. There are two days full of athletic competition. One is for the younger, junior varsity campers and one is for varsity.
The competition, however, is about more than a few sports matches.
Rabbi Paul Resnick, the director of Camp Ramah in the Berkshires, and Josh Edelglass, the assistant director of Camp Ramah in New England, both say that the competition is a way to forge bonds between the campers.
“They develop a sense of what it’s like to be a part of a team,” Resnick said, adding that many of the kids use team events as a way to train and develop their skills so that they can try out for teams back in their home communities and schools.
Edelglass said that maintaining a simultaneously competitive and friendly atmosphere can be a challenge.
“It really comes down to staff. When they have the right, good, positive attitude,” it creates the environment they are striving for. “We want you to want to win,” he said.
Part of the role of the coaches, many of whom are former athletes, is to “discuss ‘you guys are great, and we’re going to have a great day,’ ” with an emphasis on positive reinforcement, Resnick said.
The goal, he said, is to foster a competitive on-field nature, but to be friendly and have fun together off the field.
“Play your hardest when you’re on the court,” Resnick said. “But when we’re having dinner together, we’re all a Ramah family.”
Edelman said that the two camps have worked toward developing personal connections between the campers and lowering the intensity of the rivalry in recent years.
“There was a time when there was a fierce rivalry on and off the field,” he said. “We want to have fun and be competitive, but we also want to build connections.”
The events include softball, basketball, ultimate Frisbee and chess.
Both camps operate on a two-session schedule in which some campers come for the first or second four-week session and some stay for all eight weeks.
The athletic competition is scheduled toward the end of the respective sessions; each camp hosts one of the two days a year.
Both Resnick and Edelman stressed that one of the reasons they believe in the
importance of the connections made through the annual competition is that the campers who remain with Ramah throughout high school may later meet again on the Ramah Seminar in Israel.
If they do, the friendly competition could form an unbreakable bond.