Hinei Mah Tov – How Good It is to be an Inclusive Community
הִנֵּה מַה טוֹב וּמַה נָּעִים שֶׁבֶת אָחִים גַּם יַחַד
The words of Hinei Mah Tov are what come to mind when I think about camp. “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for people to dwell together.” Standing at the top of the migrash (field) just outside the mercaz (central building), you can see all the way down to the farthest end of the camp. On a weekday afternoon for seven weeks each summer, when you stand in that spot you get to see the sentiments of Hinei mah tov embodied. Hundreds of hanichim (campers) can be seen playing sports, teisha bashamayim (nine square), enjoying the garden, and playing kachol gadol (big blue blocks). Kids from all over the DC area, from different schools, different states, private school, public school, and with different strengths and needs are together making memories.
Ramah has a decades-long history of making camp accessible to everyone. Kids and adults with differing needs or disabilities have long since been valued members of the Ramah community. Ramah DC’s Tikvah program is proud to be a part of this tradition. From that same spot on the migrash, you can hear hanichim in the sensory room, using the space to take a break before lunch. You can see a kvutzah (group/bunk) having a debriefing conversation after a close call in quidditch to make sure that everyone had a chance to share their voice as well as to practice how to be a good listener. As you move around camp, the true inclusive nature of Ramah DC shines through. Bishul (cooking) with an adapted recipe to meet fine motor or allergy needs is happening on your left while straight ahead rehearsal for the drama production is well underway-featuring a script combining the ideas of every member of the group.
I love my role as Tikvah Director at Ramah DC because I get to work with all of the families, staff members, and community members that make camp the magical place where it is truly tov v’naim (good and pleasant) to see everyone together. The entire year-round team is working hard to prepare for Kayitz 2022, waiting for the first moment we can stand on the migrash and be together again. Until then, I’ll keep singing Hinei Ma Tov in my head.
Todah Rabbah to Diane Lipson Schilit and Howard Schilit, generous supporters of the Tikvah Program at Ramah Day Camp Greater DC.