Humans of Jewish Camp: Jory Hanselman
Jory is the Director of BaMidbar Wilderness Therapy at Ramah in the Rockies.
Why did you want to work for a Jewish camp?
At Ramah in the Rockies, I have been able to blend my passions: wilderness-based experiential learning, Jewish education, and transformative growth experiences. While I worked in Jewish camps throughout high school and college, I graduated college with a deep interest in working in wilderness therapy. For four years I worked in the wilderness therapy and the outdoor recovery field, before hearing that Ramah in the Rockies was exploring the possibility of a Jewish wilderness therapy program. I knew I had to be involved! Wilderness therapy programs are so steeped in storytelling, ritual, and identity exploration. What better way to enhance the program model, than to incorporate Jewish storytelling, ritual, and tradition? By doing so, we provide a foundational tapestry for students that builds Jewish identity and provides a framework for self-exploration and personal growth. We take the best of Jewish camp, and support young adults in finding personal meaning, values, and purpose.
What’s your favorite spot at camp, and why?
I worked at Ramah in the Rockies during the camp’s first two summers, and helped build the Pardes Tefillah, our outdoor sanctuary. With a dedicated group of chalutzim (pioneers, as campers are called at Ramah in the Rockies), we scoured the property looking for the perfect place for a Pardes Tefillah, before settling on a plot of land that at one point in the past had been a low ropes course. While teaching about sanctuary and sacred space in Jewish tradition, we transformed an area that previously had physically forged community into a space that would spiritually bind our community together.
Nine years later, I now serve as the director of BaMidbar Wilderness Therapy, a program of Ramah in the Rockies that works with Jewish young adults struggling with depression, anxiety, and other mental health challenges. At Ramah in the Rockies, I know I’m doing sacred work in a sacred space. Walking into the Pardes Tefillah, which is still used for Shabbat services to this day, I am awed by how far the camp has come, and how much it means to me to have been a part of developing and growing camp into what it is today.
What makes Jewish camp so special?
At Ramah in the Rockies, I know I am working for a value-driven organization. BaMidbar and Ramah in the Rockies are guided by four core values – Kavod, honor, dignity and respect for self and others; Simcha, finding joyful Jewish meaning in every aspect of our lives, Tzmichat Ishit, embracing personal transformation in every important way, and Kehillah, the power of an inclusive community. In ways big and small, I see those values prioritized on a day to day basis, which is what makes working at camp so special.