Fire brings 2 competing summer camps together in support

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ELBERT, Colo. — A fire that destroyed a lodge at a Jewish summer camp early Monday morning near Deckers should have extinguished the fun for dozens of kids.

But a competing summer camp extended its hand of friendship and let the kids finish their camp experience 80 miles away in Elbert.

“As camp directors, we give the kids tools to think about their Jewish identity and build their connection to Judaism,” said Rabbi Eliav Bock with Camp Ramah in the Rockies.

But fire threatened that experience for 130 kids and 100 staff members Monday at Ramah in the Rockies when flames destroyed the main lodge.

“Within two to three minutes, we knew we were going to lose the building,” Bock said.

Bock and staff safely evacuated all the kids and most of their eight vans. One suffered heat damage. But another one is considered a total loss.

Bock wondered now what?

“It was about 5 in the morning when I called Noah. I called him three times. The third time he actually answered,” Bock said.

“I think he said, ‘The camp is still burning. Can you take us?’ I said, ‘Yes,’” said Noah Gallagher, camp director of JCC Ranch Camp in Elbert.

So as flames threatened the Jewish camping experience, a friendship saved it.

“In a disaster like this, you find out how broad your community is,” Bock said.

The kids from Ramah in the Rockies moved to JCC Ranch Camp about 80 miles away. JCC Ranch Camp had just wrapped up its season.

“It’s important. It made a difference in a critical situation,” Bock said.

They are two camps with one mission of nurturing Jewish identities.

“For more of them to get that experience is critical to the future of the Jewish people,” Gallagher said.

The camp ends Tuesday.

Most of the kids — ages 8 to 17 — come to the camp from California and the East Coast.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

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