Forward Thinking

Raging Fire Rousts Jewish Western Sleepaway Camp

By Naomi Zeveloff

  • Print
  • Share Share
getty images

The raging forest fire outside of Colorado Springs has displaced tens of thousands of people, including 143 children from the JCC Ranch Camp in Elbert, Colorado, where I used to spend my summers as a kid.

A Jewish sleepaway camp with the feel of a Western dude ranch, the JCC Ranch Camp taught me to ride horses and to sing about horseback riding in Hebrew.

I’ll never forget the havdalah services under the stars, nor the legend of Stumpy, the murderous one-legged outlaw whose spirit was said to haunt the camp. Whisper his name during a camping trip and it would inevitably start raining.

Any rainstorm would be a welcome relief in Colorado these days. The Black Forest fire has destroyed hundreds of homes and killed two people. At the JCC Ranch Camp, summer got off to a typical start on Sunday, but on Wednesday, as the fire continued to burn with only minimal containment, camp officials decided to evacuate.

“We were in constant communication with Elbert County Emergency Management Offices,” said Megan O’Connor, spokesperson at the Robert E. Loup JCC in Denver, which runs the camp. “We knew that it would take time to evacuate, and would rather have time to do that before it becomes a last minute emergency.”

The campers and staff were loaded onto buses provided by the Elbert County school district and taken to the Denver JCC. The camp also evacuated 37 horses, five chickens, three cats and two goats; they were placed out of harm’s way in a facility in Elbert. Eight dogs were brought to Denver.

The kids spent Wednesday night at the JCC. When the outdoor pool was closed because of an air quality warning from the Denver Health Department, the kids set up a gaga pit indoors to entertain themselves. The next day, parents of children from Denver were allowed to pick up their kids. Other children from out of state were taken in by Denver families for the duration of the two-week session.

The camp is now running a day program for the kids out of the Denver Jewish Day School. O’Connor says that the Ranch Camp plans to resume for second session, depending on what happens with the fire.

For now, she says, “We’re doing our best to keep the programs running in Denver so that the kids are able to stay together, which is very important for them. They need to be with people who can help keep the Ranch Camp spirit alive.”


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: jcc ranch camp, black forest fire, colorado

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Yeshiva University's lawyer wanted to know why the dozens of former schoolboys now suing over a sexual abuse cover-up didn't sue decades ago. Read the judge's striking response here.
  • It’s over. The tyranny of the straight-haired, button nosed, tan-skinned girl has ended. Jewesses rejoice!
  • It's really, really, really hard to get kicked out of Hebrew school these days.
  • "If Netanyahu re-opens the settlement floodgates, he will recklessly bolster the argument of Hamas that the only language Israel understands is violence."
  • Would an ultra-Orthodox leader do a better job of running the Met Council?
  • So, who won the war — Israel or Hamas?
  • 300 Holocaust survivors spoke out against Israel. Did they play right into Hitler's hands?
  • Ari Folman's new movie 'The Congress' is a brilliant spectacle, an exhilarating visual extravaganza and a slapdash thought experiment. It's also unlike anything Forward critic Ezra Glinter has ever seen. http://jd.fo/d4unE
  • The eggplant is beloved in Israel. So why do Americans keep giving it a bad rap? With this new recipe, Vered Guttman sets out to defend the honor of her favorite vegetable.
  • “KlezKamp has always been a crazy quilt of gay and straight, religious and nonreligious, Jewish and gentile.” Why is the klezmer festival shutting down now?
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.