The JCC Maccabi Sports Camp Blog

Sports Movie Night Checklist

Posted by December 4, 2018 • Share:

Much of the Jewish religion centers around tradition – some dating back thousands of years. Whether it’s observing Shabbat, dipping our Apples in Honey on Rosh Hashanah, or lighting the menorah on Hanukkah, tradition is a key element in keeping our faith alive.

At JCC Maccabi Sports Camp, we too have many traditions. Every first Saturday at camp is dubbed “Sports Movie Night.” Just ask your camper; chances are they will still remember what movie we watched this past summer at camp.

Thankfully the holiday season brings families together to experience some quality time. As we enter the holiday season, we encourage you to find some time to bring a camp tradition into your home by hosting a sports movie night. Pick your favorite sports classic OR we recommend watching the 2003 Disney movie Full Court Miracle (available to stream on Amazon). Full Court Miracle is based on the true story of two real life characters – the University of Virginia basketball star Lamont Carr and the story of Alex Barbag.

Much like the Maccabees, this movie tells the tale of a Jewish, youth basketball team in the face of insurmountable odds and celebrates the miracle of dedication and human courage.

Here are some things you’ll need to make your Camp Sports Movie Night complete:

  • Everyone must wear their PJs and bring a blanket and pillow.
  • Surprise your kids by inviting some of their best buddies without them knowing – maybe a local camp friend!
  • Snacks are essential – popcorn and M&Ms are our typical go-to.
  • Be sure to have a quick “Cabin-Time” after to discuss the movie. Ask things like which character they would want to be and why and talk about the morals within the movie.

We hope your family’s sports movie might is a success! From all of us at JCC Maccabi Sports Camp, we wish you and your family a Happy Hanukkah and a joyous Festival of Lights.

Camper Review 5 Years of Maccabi Experiences

Posted by November 21, 2018 • Share:

Individual Efforts Build Strong Jewish Community

In our recent post celebrating our 5th summer we reflected on the growth and achievements of our community as a whole. Just like a sports team, the impact JMSC has in our community is a collection of individual efforts. For us, campers are the most important players on our team.

We have seen many athletes develop unique skills that show they’ve developed strength in character. During the summer of 2018, many of them were able to:

  • Reflect on lessons learned and share with camp
  • Model engagement & ownership of our camp culture
  • Appreciate the supporters (parents, staff, & fellow campers) that fostered their growth

Below are Josh Pennington’s reflections shared with the entire camp at the closing of his fifth and final summer as a camper.

Jewish Baseball Games Camp Maccabi

Camper Reflections on 5 Years of Maccabi Sports

On the final night of the final session of our 2018 summer, Josh Pennington shared reflections and guidance to younger campers. After 5 years as a camper, this was Josh’s final night as a camper.

Upon delivering the speech with heart and love, Josh walked over to Josh Steinharter, Camp Director, and they hugged. Amidst their embrace, Josh handed over his speech and said “I want you to have this so you can share it with others.”

“The last day I’ll ever be a camper. The last time I’ll say goodbye as I wait for my parents to pick me up.

I can still remember when Josh (Steinharter) came to my synagogue trying to get campers for a brand new Jewish sports camp. It sounded fun and I wasn’t disappointed. Session 3, 2014 had very few kids and it was awesome getting to know each one as well as the staff. I remember not having any maturity, but hey, what can you expect from a 12-year old.

Around this time for the last 4 years, I left camp eager to have another great camper experience next year. This year is different. Instead of happiness and excitement, I’m feeling sad and regretful. Regretful because I could have done more. Sad because I didn’t.

If I had known, or even thought about the future, I wouldn’t have messed around or been angry at other people. I wouldn’t’ve taken my camp days for granted.

And after 5 years, 6 sessions, 72 days, 1,728 hours, 103,680 minutes, 6,220,800 seconds, I’ve learned a couple lessons.

Treat people with respect. It’s fine to screw around a bit, but once they say it isn’t ok, stop. Include everyone, to a certain point. When playing a game, let others join in, even if you don’t know or like them. They will feel happy and who knows, maybe you will too. Get to know people. I find it uncomfortable to do things with strangers, and walking around camp not knowing someones name is kind of awkward.

And finally, have fun. You can’t be happy if you have no fun. Make everyday, every minute, every second more fun than the last. That is the only way to have a great camp experience, and that is the point of camp.

I challenge you all to make next year more fun and leave a positive mark on camp because one day you’ll be up here like me, wishing you could like this forever.”

– Josh Pennington

More Reflections from Campers

It often takes time and reflection for new and challenging experiences to become impactful. This is especially so of a summer camp that builds Jewish community in the way that we do.

Questions to ask your camper that attended last summer:

  • What are some character moments that you’re proud of from last summer? How did you grow stronger in character at Maccabi?
  • To learn from Josh’s reflections, what are some things you would like to have done differently?
  • If you could give a new camper advice for their first summer, what would you tell them?

We will continue to share how campers reflect on their experiences attending Maccabi throughout the year. Please contact us if you or your camper have thoughts that you’d like to share with us.

5-Year Anniversary Summer

Posted by October 17, 2018 • Share:

Our Expanding Impact

This past summer, JCC Maccabi Sports Camp celebrated its 5-Year Anniversary. In just five years JMSC has grown from a big idea to a remarkable reality – serving over 1,000 campers and 300 staff from around the globe. In 2018 we:

  • Welcomed over 100 new campers
  • More than doubled female camper enrollment
  • Added three options for week-long day camp programs
  • Increased our core sports to include flag football, volleyball and dance
  • Had over 30 rising 10th & 11th graders in our Teen Leaders program

Thanks to your support, JCC Maccabi Sports Camp continued to mature and gain momentum. So as we head into Summer 2019, we aim to impact the lives of over 500 campers and staff and further develop our camp community.


We’re currently focused on planning to make summer 2019 our best yet. However, it’s important to take a step back and reflect on just what brought us all here. We like to say that every person at JCC Maccabi Sports Camp has their own “why” – the reason they chose to be part of our camp community. Last week, we asked some of our campers and staff to share their “why” with us, and the responses were equal parts inspiring and humbling.

“Camp has and always will be my happy place. The people, skills, connections, laughter, friendship and memories I’ve made will stick with me forever.” – Sophie, 4-year Camper and Teen Leader

“As a counselor, I got to see my campers develop over our session together. Seeing this maturation as they come out of their comfort zones is such a rewarding feeling; as is knowing that you’ve helped build a positive, Jewish environment in which they feel safe enough to be themselves and begin to build relationships with their peers.” – Drew, 3rd year Counselor

“Maccabi is a place I really love. I get to be with my friends and get better in my sport. The environment that camp creates is like no other place I’ve been before!” – Noah, 4-year Camper

“‘The first year that I went to camp, it was all about the ruach/spirit and the feeling of love. This year, maybe because I’m older, it was all about the core values. I feel like I am a better person because I went to camp.” – 14-Year-Old, 2-year Camper

All of these “whys” make up the soul of our unique camp culture. Let us know your “WHY” with the hashtag #WHYJMSC. Let the world know why you choose to be part of the JCC Maccabi Sports Camp community. Don’t forget to tag us on your favorite social media platform.




We couldn’t be any more grateful for the strong community we have built here at JCC Maccabi Sports Camp. Thank you for supporting us! We can’t wait to see what the next five years, and beyond, brings.

2019 Camp Registration is Coming Soon

On October 23rd all 2018 families will have a 2-week window of early enrollment. This priority registration will offer our deepest discounts and best choice of programs.

Thank You

Everything JMSC has achieved was made possible by the contributions of our founding partners. We are grateful for your continued support. In addition to the agencies listed above, over 300 individuals and families have contributed to our mission. Join them by making a donation to our camp scholarship fund.


Donate to Our Camp Scholarship


Parent Play-by-Play: Summer 2018

Posted by April 26, 2018 • Share:

Summer is just around the corner and there’s a lot of information about camp that we want to share. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sending a series of emails on the most important topics to help prepare your child (and you!) for a terrific experience at JCC Maccabi Sports Camp.

Missed an email? Don’t sweat it! Click below to catch up.


















Summer Communication

Posted by April 17, 2018 • Share:

This is last of a series of emails & blog posts covering important topics about sending your child to camp. If you missed the previous emails & blog posts in this series, click here to view.

Parent Play-by-Play 6: Summer Communication

In today’s issue we discuss ways you can interact with your child and their summer camp experience.

There are several ways to stay connected to your child and the happenings at camp including social media, emails, letter writing, photos and the camp blog.

Emergency Hotline: (415) 779-4769

If there is an emergency and you need to reach camp immediately during the summer, please use this number. It will connect to the Leadership Staff member on duty and will be on during all hours of the day.

Please note, this number should only be used in the case of emergencies. Non-emergencies should still be directed to the main camp number (415) 997-8844. If you don’t get us directly it’s because we’re out having fun with your kids and we check messages frequently.

Social Media

Just like our campers, we love social media! Be sure to LIKE us on Facebook so you can stay on top of what we’re doing, reading, thinking, and feeling.  We’d love for you to share our posts and photos with your friends and family too.

We’re also on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat, all under the handle @jmsportscamp


By now you should be familiar with CampInTouch, our online portal for registration and camper forms. Once camp begins, the platform transitions to enable you to stay in touch with your child and the happenings at camp.

The system is user-friendly and we encourage you explore it. Should you have any questions or need help, CampMinder Tech Support is standing by and more than happy to assist. (CampMinder is the software behind CampInTouch.)

CampMinder can be reached at (303) 444-2267; follow the prompts for Parent support. They have extended hours in the summer and are ready to provide assistance to parents and camp families.  The CampMinder team is the experts in all things CampInTouch so please call them with any questions.

What can you do via the CampInTouch System?

  • Send an email to your child — it will be printed and delivered with their cabin’s mail after lunch
  • Receive an email response from your child — a handwritten note will be scanned and emailed to you as a PDF
  • View camp photo albums and share photos with family & friends
  • Add guests to your account so they can see what’s happening at camp
  • Download hi-resolution photos (for a fee) 

Emailing Your Camper

CampInTouch allows you and your camper to communicate using eLetters, an email-like system enabling two-way communication. Parents, and guests associated with your account, can log into CampInTouch and write an eLetter that will be received by our office. We print letters daily at 11am and deliver them to campers after lunch. If you want your child to respond, there is a checkbox that will initiate a camper-specific page to be printed and delivered with your letter. Your camper will use this page to craft a handwritten letter home. The special page has a unique barcode that allows us to scan and upload the letter directly to your CampInTouch account. The best way to ensure you receive a response from your camper is to click the check box and initiate this special sheet is generated for your camper. 

It’s important to note that while these eLetters are sent electronically, they are not in real-time as we have become accustom to when using email in our everyday lives. Campers often receive the blank note at rest hour but may not respond immediately. By the time a camper writes a letter and puts it in our dorm mailboxes, it could be an hour or many days later. Also, depending on when their response letter is put in the dorm mailbox, it may not be uploaded until the next day. We offer this information so that parents can temper expectations regarding when they will receive a response from their child. Some campers will write home immediately, some will take days, and some may never write home. 


CampStamps are essentially a currency required to send and receive emails through CampInTouch. JCC Maccabi Sports Camp has arranged for each family to receive 5 CampStamps per camper per parent per week. Sending an eLetter to your camper costs 1 CampStamp and receiving an eLetter from your camper costs 1 CampStamp. Once your allocation of CampStamps has been used up, parents can purchase additional CampStamps. They are $1.00 each with a minimum purchase of 10 at a time. Please remember that each parent receives 5 CampStamps per week so they will be replenished midway through the 2-week session. CampStamps do not expire and can be rollover to next year but they cannot be used at a different camp.

We have chosen the 5 CampStamps option specifically for camper care & philosophical reasons, not reasons related to cost, as we feel that is a healthy level of communication during a two-week session. Receiving mail at camp is one of the great joys of the experience and we strongly encourage families to write to their kids. That said, there is a point when receiving a high volume of letters can be too much, many times causing campers to have feelings of missing home when before there were none. Also, and this is rare, but some campers experience stress due to the pressure of having to respond to each letter. Camp is short and fleeting and we want campers to be in the moment and experience all that it has to offer. If a camper feels they must spend all of their downtime writing letters home, it may severely dampen that experience. We’ve seen this happen each summer and want to encourage parents to keep this in mind as they embark on the summer camp experience.

Again, by all means, write to your child while they are at camp. Campers love to get mail. But please also be sure to set the appropriate expectations with your camper on writing home. Sending 1-3 letters home during a session is a good amount. Anything more than that may adversely affect the wonderfully positive experience you’ve sent them to camp to have.

Letter Writing

My father used to refer to my grandfather as “the last of the great letter writers” — and that was when I was the age of our campers! One of the last places letters are still exchanged is summer camp. It’s a great way to communicate and very exciting for campers to receive an actual letter in the mail. To ensure your letter reaches your camper while a camp, we recommend mailing letters 1-2 days prior to the start of camp, through Tuesday of the second week.

Mailing Address (and suggested formatting)

Camper’s Name
c/o JCC Maccabi Sports Camp (Menlo College)
1000 El Camino Real
Atherton, CA 94027


Our summer photo system within your CampInTouch account provides a fantastic way for you and your family, friends, and guests to have a window into your camper’s summer experience.

When you access the photo system within CampInTouch, you’ll see photo albums and a season selector at the top of the screen, which gives you easy access to great camp memories from years past.

The photo system has a mobile-optimized navigation menu across the bottom of the page, allowing easy navigation on all kinds of devices. Clicking or tapping into an album gives you an endlessly streaming page of photos, with a column layout custom-tailored to your device of choice. Selecting a photo gives you a much larger view of that image, and from there, you can swipe or use the arrow keys on your keyboard to navigate through the entire album.

An important note regarding camp photos…

The photos we share are intended to offer each family an opportunity to see our general program and get a sense of the overall camp experience. There are lots of great moments happening at camp every day and we want to share them with you so you can gain a better understanding of what your child is experiencing. That said, photos are not meant to be a camper specific check-in. Meaning, it is not our goal to post photos so that every family can see their child and be able to know how their child is doing. Should a photo capture your child with anything less than a beaming smile, that’s ok too. Camp is about ups and downs and we’ve found that there are a lot more ups than downs. But, should it happen, keep in mind that a photo is a moment in time and may not be representative of the overall experience a particular child is having.

Should you want to get a better sense of your child’s experience, please call us. Josh, the camp director, or any number of other Leadership Staff are more than happy to give you a report on how your child is doing and maybe even snap a photo of them having a great time!

Sharing and purchasing photos is easy as well. Simply hover over a photo and use the buttons to download, share, or add the photo to your shopping cart.  We hope you enjoy this feature and use it as a means to experience camp alongside your camper this summer.

We are taking a lot of pictures at camp and promise to share them with you. We will post a new batch three times a week on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays  before 8:00pm.

Also keep an eye on the camp blog for periodic insights into exciting happenings at camp.

Previous Topics

To view all of the topics in this series, click here.