BY SHERI OPPENHEIMER BAKER / For the AJT //

On the first day of camp every year, many parents take one look around and ask the same question: “Can I go to camp, too?”

Jewish youngsters from across the Southeast spend time each summer at Camp Ramah Darom in North Georgia. PHOTO / Camp Ramah Dorom

The answer at Camp Ramah Darom – as well as many other camps now – is a resounding “yes!”

In fact, this past fall – just a few weeks after our summer campers packed their bags and went home – more than 50 women from around the country joined us at Ramah for our inaugural Jewish Women’s Getaway. Ladies between the ages of 18 and 80 enjoyed meeting new people, participating in thought-provoking workshops and eating s’mores (made with dark chocolate, of course!) around the campfire.

The week was designed to give women an opportunity to experience what our campers do during the summer: explore their identity, connect with their spirituality and take part in fun, engaging and inspiring activities.

Not Just for Kids, and Not Just for Summer

Camp has always been Jewish living and learning at its best and undeniably one of the most impactful experiences a child can have.

According to the Foundation for Jewish Camp, children who attend a Jewish camp are 55 percent more likely to feel very emotionally attached to Israel, 45 percent more likely to attend synagogue at least once a month and 21 percent more likely to feel that being Jewish is very important.

If summer camp is so impactful, just imagine how rich and vibrant our community would be if more people came to camp not just during the summer, but fall, winter and spring, too; and not just kids benefited, but families did so together.

Our vision at Ramah Darom is to give youth, adults and communities from all over the Southeast that opportunity. By offering exceptional experiences in Jewish living and learning year-round, we hope to have a chance to contribute to the strength and growth of our regional Jewish community.

Offerings at Ramah Darom

We now offer Open Shabbat programs in which groups and individuals of all ages can join us for fun, inspiring Shabbat weekends on our campus in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains throughout the year. What’s more, in a few weeks we will host our second annual Winter Break Family Camp, and then  – before we know it – our annual Passover Vacation will be here.

There’s also Camp Yofi, a one-week program for families with children with autism spectrum disorder, which has become one of our unique signature programs that we offer each year.  We even have a program for grandparents of campers during the summer and offer the opportunity for families and organizations to host their own reunions, simchas or retreats on our campus, no matter the season.

Creating life-long friendships, exploring our identity and connecting with our community, nature and G-d are all things that are important to explore for the entirety of our lives, not only when we are children.

For many of us, camp was a place where we found ourselves, our lifelong friends and our love of Judaism at an early age; for others, camp is a new experience.

Regardless, let camp be a place where we can all come together and plant the seeds for a dynamic, engaged Jewish future.

Sheri Oppenheimer Baker is the director of marketing and communications at Ramah Darom and a lifelong camper.