December 15, 2018

Camp Ramah in Ojai expands with $1.8 million land purchase

Tucked into the Ojai Valley of Ventura County are some of the most pristine and beautiful locations in Southern California — an idyllic place to go to summer camp or unwind on a retreat.

Now, thanks to the purchase of 174 acres of additional land that will increase its size by 40 percent, Camp Ramah in California hopes to do an even better job of taking advantage of its setting near the hills of Ojai. The Jewish sleep-away camp, which is part of the Camp Ramah network of Jewish camps associated with the Conservative Movement, announced Dec. 15 that it
closed escrow on the property, which was acquired for just over $1.8 million, according to Rabbi Joe Menashe, the camp’s executive director.

Menashe said the land on the camp’s northern border is “picturesque and rugged with hidden valleys and several viewpoints with 360-degree views of Ojai Valley and surrounding mountain ranges. Existing [hiking] trails are accessible directly out of the main camp, and native oaks and chaparral cover the hillsides and valleys.” 

The new addition to the camp will be preserved in its natural state as a way to enhance the experience of being in nature while at camp or at one of the retreats offered on the property.

“Ramah will be able to expand its nature education and programming with this raw and mostly native habitat, and we will seek over time to ensure that we honor the biodiversity that we inherit, and use the land in a manner that leaves a very modest footprint,” Menashe said.

The Camp Ramah grounds — which will now have up to 445 contiguous acres — offer children the chance to live in an immersive Jewish community during the summer while also participating in standard camp activities like hiking, swimming, arts and crafts, camping under the stars, ropes courses, sports, performing arts and more.

Besides offering an emphasis on Jewish education and Hebrew and Jewish thought, there is a focus on protecting and nurturing the environment. The camp provides an outdoor kitchen, organic garden and dedicated composting area. Ramah also boasts a solar energy system that provides most of the power needed to run the camp (a feature that makes it unique among American Jewish camps, according to its website).

While there is no precise plan detailing exactly how the new land will be used, one way Menashe said he hopes to utilize it would be for camping and extended backpacking trips. The intricate network of existing trails on the newly acquired parcel eventually meet with trails in the Los Padres National Forest.

Andrew Spitzer, chairman of the Camp Ramah in California board, said in a statement: “We are so pleased to have the opportunity to make this acquisition, which will benefit not only Camp Ramah and its constituents, but also the community of Ojai, which will continue to enjoy the beauty offered by this majestic valley” as well as the hiking trails.

The purchase was subsidized through donations, enough so that the camp was able to make the purchase outright, according to Menashe.

“Ramah is blessed to have so many who believe in the long-term significance of this institution and Jewish camping, including many who were able to give generously toward this purchase as part of an ongoing capital campaign totaling $5 million,” Menashe said. “Ramah is in the closing phase of this campaign and welcomes additional alumni and communal involvement.”

Menashe hopes the expansion will help Ramah in its mission of positively impacting the Jewish community.

“We hope this will enable Ramah to do an even better job with enhancing the Jewish values that we utilize with greater personal challenge and growth through authentic experiences in nature with thoughtful Jewish education.”