A Ramah Tikvah counselor shares how his summer changed the way that he understands kids with disabilities–and himself

Oz and campers. Courtesy of Oz Isseroff

By Oz Isseroff

The last camper had left camp and a few hours left before staff party. I walk back from the parking lot and try to sum up this last month in my head. I was told it would be a meaningful experience but no one could have really prepared me for this adventure. I try to put things in order, to remember the difficult and joyful moments, to recall smiles on faces and fatigue at the end of the day. It took me over three months to finalize writing my summary. The reason is that as time went by, I realized how much one month with 16 special needs campers had changed my life.

To try to comprehend this month, I would like you to imagine Camp Ramah in the Poconos as a theme park and you, as visitors to the park. Everyone has previous, different experiences based on their character, on the company with which they travel with and on which rides they choose to go on.

My first year coming to this theme park was summer 2000, when I was 5 years old. For 13 summers I kept coming to the same park, with the same friends and enjoyed the same rides. Every year I was exposed to another part of the park which was age depended, until I got permission to walk around freely at all different areas of the park. Every year I tried new things but also went on the same rides I was used to. At the end of each summer, my friends and I always shared same experiences, issues and memories.

But then summer 2017 arrived. I suddenly discovered another part of the park: it was still the same amusement park but that one part had some slight changes. The scenery, people, food where all very familiar but the rides were a bit slower and sometimes they were more overwhelming. To get there one had to stay away from the main path, the familiar, known one. By staying there one had to give up visiting other very much loved parts. Longtime friends are not present there, the change is a bit intimidating.

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