The JCC Maccabi Sports Camp Blog

Summer 2021 – Frequently Asked Questions

Posted by October 23, 2020 • Share:

Below is a list of questions we anticipate many families will be asking as they decide to register and prepare to come to camp next summer. While comprehensive, this list is by no means exhaustive. If you have questions that are not addressed on this page, we strongly encourage you to contact camp leadership to discuss. We know that on any given year, the decision to attend camp is an important one and it is made even more challenging by the ramifications of the coronavirus.

Senior Director Josh Steinharter can be reached at or (415) 997-8844, and is more than happy to discuss camp’s plans to keep campers, staff, and our entire community safe next summer.

What is your general approach to running camp in the age of Covid-19? +-

As a starting point, we are thinking about how to run camp as if it were taking place today. What are the protocols and procedures we need in place now, while anticipating how things might change by the time camp starts in June? While we certainly hope that the pandemic climate will improve by this summer, we will be ready for the most extreme scenario. That way, we can simply peel away layers of compliance as they become unnecessary once the situation improves.As we look at all aspects of preparing for camp, there is nothing we are doing that does not have some element of covid-related planning.

Important to note, there is more time between now and the start of camp than since the start of the pandemic. Meaning, we have more time to prepare and can do so armed with more knowledge and understanding of what needs to be done to be safe.


What are the specific measures you're considering for the summer? +-

We have spent considerable time learning from camps and other similar organizations that have been successful in creating safe spaces and mitigating spread. The commonality they all share are established protocols and a culture of compliance that includes pre-camp shelter-in-place, pre-screening, periodic (if not daily) health screenings, PPE, distancing, altered activities (outdoor activities and small groups as much as possible), cohorts or podding, hand washing, testing, disinfecting and cleaning. Some have compared these measures to swiss cheese. Each measure implemented in isolation has holes, but when several measures are stacked together, the overlapping effect reduces holes until there are none. 

Why have you decided to open camp? +-

Because we know camp is important, campers need it, and because we can! After what will be more than a year at home with limited opportunity to be with friends, we can’t think of anything more healthy and important than time at overnight camp. Since camp is already one of the most impactful experiences on the growth and development of a child, we think it’s even more so amidst the stressful climate of the pandemic. Camp is tremendously therapeutic for kids, staff, and everyone involved and an essential part of a child’s year-long learning landscape. That value is exponential this year! 

Where are you getting information to guide your decision making? +-

We have been gathering information from a variety of sources including, but not limited to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), American Camping Association, (ACA), our network of Jewish camps in the SF Bay Area, Jewish and private camps nationwide (many who ran in 2020), San Mateo County Health Department, JMSC Advisory Committee, OFJCC Covid Task Force, and the JCC Association of North America.  

Why have you chosen to run longer sessions? +-

We’ve made this decision for a number of reasons. Longer sessions have been on our mind for several years. Parents and campers have been asking for it and each year we see more and more campers attending multiple sessions. So on one hand, there is a demand for more camp. And while that is a good reason to run longer sessions, due to the conditions created by the pandemic, longer sessions are simply safer. Families will be asked to commit to a series of health compliance measures and in order for those to make sense and feel worthwhile, we feel a longer session is merited. Further, it is the recommendation of the CDC that any activity outside of school last for at least 3 weeks to limit opportunity for exposure. Our longer sessions meet this standard. 

Why are there only two sessions in 2021? +-

It was important to limit the number of “start days” to as few as possible so as to avoid opportunities for covid-19 to penetrate our community. When everyone arrives at the same time, playing by the same rules and taking the same measures, we can drastically reduce the likelihood of an exposure. The more opening days, the more risk to exposure. Additionally, we have limited access to Menlo College due to their school calendar. 

With regard to Covid-19, what does a successful summer look like? +-

Next summer may be challenging, but it is sure to be the most rewarding we’ve ever had. We know that the simple act of having camp will already position us for significant and meaningful success. That said, health and safety remains our first priority. We do not believe it is a reasonable expectation to enter the summer thinking we can completely avoid covid-19. It is reasonable, however, to implement protocols for safety and actions steps to be followed when and if a case arises. Our goal is to create an environment with the systems, protocols, and communication methods that allow us to recognize a case as soon as possible and prevent spread. In the end, aside from stopping anyone from getting coronavirus, the ultimate goal is to mitigate spread, contract trace should there be a case and ensure the community stays safe. 

What is the refund policy if our family registers and changes our mind about attending camp? +-

All fees paid to camp for tuition, including the deposit, will be fully refundable until May 1.

What is the mask policy for next summer? +-

Much of this answer will depend on the status of the pandemic when camp occurs. We will utilize masks/PPE and other measures to ensure the safety of our camp community as they are recommended, and will likely go beyond the recommendations to ensure the safety of everyone at camp. 

Will camp be structured into cohorts or pods? +-

Yes, we expect camp to be separated into small groups. How these groups will be determined and limited is still a conversation in progress but we do plan to operate within small pods. When and if those pods interact with other pods, as is permitted by the CDC and recommended by the ACA, we will follow the rule of 2 of 3 compliance measures or what has been called “mixing and masking”. Those measures include distancing, outdoors, and/or masking. 

Do you expect to offer the traditional core sports as in past years? +-

Yes, we plan to offer the same sports as in past years though with more strict limitations on how many campers per sport. Additionally, volleyball will be 100% outdoors and we are exploring the facilities necessary to hold parts of basketball outdoors. Other sports like soccer, baseball, and tennis will incorporate a combination of masks and distancing as necessary. 

How many campers will live in a dorm room? +-

We are in conversation with the leadership of Menlo College to determine the max capacity of each dorm building and room (square footage per person) and will make a decision based on the recommendations of the CDC and other guiding organizations. 

Will my camper need to quarantine prior to coming to camp? +-

Yes, per CDC guidelines and the recommendations of other reputable organizations such as the American Camping Association and San Mateo County Health Department, we expect to require campers to shelter in place for 14 days prior to their arrival at camp. We will make alterations to this policy as the situation evolves. 

Will you implement testing at camp? +-

It’s too early to answer this definitively but we do expect to use testing as a significant safety measure. By the time camp rolls around, it is our expectation that testing will be more readily available and affordable. If that is the case, at this time, we would expect campers to test within 72 hours of coming to camp, again when they arrive, and again a few days into the session. 

Are campers permitted to attend more than one session? +-

Yes, campers are more than welcome to attend more than one session provided they agree to and are comfortable staying within the camp bubble for the duration of their time at camp, including the days between sessions. Parents will not be permitted to visit their camper on campus or take them off campus for lunch or any other activity. 

With the longer session, will the daily schedule change? +-

Yes, we do expect to make changes to the overall session program as well as the daily schedule. We are in the beginning stages of a deliberative process to reshape our entire camp program based much on feedback from parents and staff and of course, our campers. Given campers will be at camp longer, one change campers can anticipate is a shift from 4 hours of core sports to fewer each day, likely closer to 3 hours per day. We will communicate any and all changes once they’ve been finalized. 

Should a camper with a comorbidity attend camp? +-

This is a personal decision that can only be made by a family in consultation with their doctor. If you are unsure if your child should come to camp this summer, we strongly recommend that you call so we can talk through the specifics of your family’s situation. 

How do I enroll if I chose to roll over tuition from Summer 2020? +-

First, thank you! If you banked all or part of your tuition from last summer to be credited to 2021, we will go ahead and enroll your camper for you. Please email to let us know which session and sport you’d like to enroll your camper. 

Will you be running a day camp? +-

We will not be offering day camp at the same location as our overnight camp program. We may offer JCC Maccabi Sports Day Camp at the OFJCC campus or another location, to be decided at a later date. 

What don't you know now that you plan to share with camp families prior to the summer? +-

We are committed to constant learning about covid-19 and the best practices with regard to preventing and mitigating the virus. We expect to have a relationship with a medical provider to serve as a real time consultant in the face of an exposure. We also plan to have more specifics around cohorting, daily compliance measures, and more.

It is the Tree of Life

Posted by July 22, 2020 • Share:

written by Eytan Graubart

Years ago I learned from a rabbi and close friend that to build a Jewish community you need only two things: a kosher butcher and a Torah. And while the reason for having a kosher butcher as one of two pillars makes for a better drash (can we really be a Jewish community if we can’t get kosher chicken for Shabbat?), the reason for needing a Torah is a bit more powerful.

It seems obvious that our holiest item would be something we need to form a community, but Torahs are expensive and hard to come by. I challenged my friend and suggested that knowledge and love of Torah could suffice, but she disagreed. She spoke not about the knowledge within the scriptures, or the metaphorical representation of our history, but rather the spectacle that the Torah creates around Judaism. The experience of seeing, touching, and smelling a Torah is, for many, the actual physical sensation of being Jewish. The ritual involved in taking out a Torah, of blessing a community in the presence of one, is only experienced with the physical object in hand. A Torah has a way of developing a personality as well, much like an old piano, they start to sound better with age and use. Maintaining and caring for a Torah teaches important lessons, and their wardrobes are beautiful tapestries, unique and expressive of their caretaker’s love.

Since our inception in 2014, JCC Maccabi Sports Camp has been blessed with a Torah.Our Torah, like many hard-working camp professionals, had a year-round gig for the months not at camp. For her, it was at Congregation Etz Chayim in Palo Alto.As we prepared for a camp season this year that ultimately would not happen, we also prepared for our first without the Torah that had been with us since the beginning, the one that brought us together. We are touched that this scroll will be making a journey across the world to serve a community in Israel.

Overwhelmingly supportive and welcoming of JCC Maccabi Sports Camp, Etz Chayim went above and beyond by allowing us to borrow their beloved Torah each summer.

During the summer of 2018, a few of our staff asked if they could roll the Torah in preparation for their readings at the next week’s Shabbat service. They invited others who had never seen a Torah scroll opened and rolled into place, to come and be part of the experience. We expected only a few people to show up, but our entire staff came and spent their night off staying up late and learning together. The Torah sprawled out, surrounded by talitot on people of all faiths, in the moonlight of camp, was one of the most awesome things I’ve ever seen.

That Torah now has a new home. After decades at Etz Chayim, JCC Maccabi Sports Camp, and supporting our year round and summer communities, that Torah has traveled home to Israel, where she will most certainly bring light and love to others. We made arrangements for a new Torah this summer, and we are again lucky and blessed to be in a community that supports camp. But even with incredible excitement and energy, we were no doubt going to have to get to know a new Torah. But that’s exactly what camp has always been about; making new friends…also, does anyone know a Kosher butcher?

And now, the history and future of what has been camp’s Torah…

The Story of the Familant Torah

Adapted from the writing of Abra Greenspan

When we, the Etz Chayim travelers were in Israel this past June, we met with Rabbi Lila who had studied with Rabbi Chaim in rabbinical school. She told us her story of ministering to the region and having success introducing secular Jews to the beauty of Judaism. Very unfortunately, she was in a situation in which she was no longer allowed to access the Torah she had been loaned because she is female and had other women accessing it.

After listening to her story, we wanted to help get her a Torah of her own that she could use with people in the region she serves. Rabbi Chaim suggested the Familant Torah as it wasn’t being used. He checked with Rabbi Familant for his blessing (the Torah belongs to Etz Chayim so permission was not needed but his blessing was desired.) Rabbi Familant was extremely enthusiastic and pleased that the Torah would be making aliyah and have a purpose with another rabbi.

The scroll, however, was not in good condition and the poles (atzei chayim) were broken. The scroll was sent to Florida, to a sofer/scribe be repaired. After it came back,  we tied it to new poles that congregant Jon Kaplan made.

There is some mystery surrounding the exact origins of the scroll, but scholars have done their best to deduce its origins. Rabbi Charles Familant was the Hillel Rabbi at Stanford University until 1975, at which point Rabbi Ari Cartun assumed the role.

Thanks to the sofer in Florida, we know that the Torah was scribed in Poland. A sofer can tell where a Torah scroll is from based on the kind of lettering. After that, it got to Germany. On November 9, 1938 during Kristallnacht in Germany, someone rescued the Torah from a burning synagogue. The Torah seems to have been brought to San Francisco by an uncle of Rabbi Joseph Asher, one of the rabbis at Temple Emmanu-El in SF and given to the Temple. It was later passed along to Rabbi Familant when he left Hillel at Stanford. When Rabbi Familant retired, he passed it along to Rabbi Ari Cartun at Congregation Etz Chayim where it has stayed for many years. The Torah has been used at the Bay Area Jewish Healing Center Grief & Growing Weekend and has also spent several summers as the resident Torah at the JCC Maccabi Sports Camp in Menlo Park. It was in bad shape when Rabbi Chaim looked at it, no longer kosher because of faded letters and a section that had been eaten away by a rodent.

Rabbi Familant called this scroll a “Survivor Torah” and he was very moved to think of it making “aliyah” to Israel.  When we spoke with him, he stopped us at one point to let us know that the Torah is pasul (not kosher for use in religious rituals).  When he was told that we actually just had a sofer make it kosher, he was very touched.

And now, sometime in the next few months, this Torah will make its way to Israel to serve a community in Northwest Israel. It will be made available to Rabbi Lila and “live” with her on Kibbutz Ha’Ma’apil.

Chazak, chazak, v’nitchazeik!


Virtual Talent Show

Posted by July 2, 2020 • Share:


JCC Maccabi Sports Camp Talent Show

Wednesday, August 5th

7:00pm on Facebook Live

The Maccabi Talent Show started during our first session of our first summer in 2014 and we are not going to let this virus stop us from continuing this important tradition.

This year’s show will be a little different but still have all the excitement, fun, and of course…talent, that we’ve all come to expect!

Here’s how it’s going to work…

  • Prospective acts must sign up no later than Friday, July 31 using this form.
  • Division Leaders will review all submissions and circle back with follow up questions
  • Depending on the number of acts, we will decide how many to accept
  • Acts must record their performances at home and submit to Matt Reitman by Sunday, August 2 (more information will be sent providing more guidance on this aspect)
  • All acts must be limited to 2 minutes

Sign up today and be part of our first ever virtual Talent Show!


Maccabi Fellowship in Sports Leadership (M-FiSL)

Posted by July 1, 2020 • Share:

Maccabi Fellowship in Sports Leadership

Legends and Leaders

For campers 13 – 16 years old
July 20 – August 14 (4 weeks)
$150 per camper, registration required, max 25 participants
Click here to register – must be completed by the teen, with permission and supervision of a parent

Join a cohort of Maccabi campers as we explore and develop leadership skills over the course of a 4-week program. Participants will learn about leadership, explore their own skills and hone new ones, plan and lead programs this summer, develop new ideas for the year round camp community, and of course, make new friends.

Participants in M-FiSL will discuss what it means to be a leader and the many ways you can lead and develop the skills of a leader. Discussions about current events, reflections on leaders and leadership styles, and real life applications, will help campers to think critically, become better problem solvers and put their own leadership skills to practice.

Through this leadership program campers will gain knowledge, in addition to feeling a sense of accomplishment in helping this summer, this program will have a meaningful and tangible impact beyond the summer


  • Attend all scheduled online meetings (tentative calendar below)
  • Complete pre-call reading, viewing, or other preparation
  • Be present and ready to share, discuss, and absorb the ideas and content
  • Allow themselves to be vulnerable, humble, and ready to learn

Goals & Outcomes – Participants will…

  • Meet new people, making new friends and strengthening bonds with old friends
  • Cultivate important leadership, collaboration, and communication skills
  • Share their voice as part of a team creating, planning, and implementing camp programs
  • Have the opportunity to learn from leaders, from within and outside the camp community
  • Feel further connected to camp friends and the camp community during these challenging times


  • Meeting #1 – July 20, 5pm pacific – Icebreakers, discuss video homework, begin prep on summer project
  • Meeting #2 – July 29, 5pm – Discuss pre-call homework,  begin prep for in-summer camp program, brainstorming community service project and year-round engagement ideas
  • Meeting #3 – August 3, 5pm pacific – discuss sports leadership, start planning year round camp programs, communication/public speaking skills
  • Meeting #4 – August 7, 5pm pacific – continue with year round programming and community service, conversation about leadership styles
  • Meeting #5 – August 11, 5pm pacific – final touches on programming, continued skill development, prep for final gathering and what comes after summer
  • Meeting #6 – August 14, 5pm pacific – Culminating Gathering, M-FiSL Shabbat

*dates tentative, content subject to change

Maccabi Fellowship in Sports Leadership is part of The Jewish Teen Education and Engagement Initiative (Teen Initiative), a project of the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund, with generous support from The Jim Joseph Foundation and local funders.





Commemorating Moments

Posted by December 17, 2019 • Share:

Sometimes I close my eyes when I’m at camp and just listen. I love it. The squeaking sneakers on the gym floor, laughter of all types, a whistle blowing, it’s all music to my ears. And to me, 

Playing Guitar Singing Campfire Jewish Camping Bay Area

that is always what it has been about – the music.


I recently had the honor of being named JCC Maccabi Sports Camp’s newest Camp Director, the second in our young history. It is a tremendous honor and responsibility that has been both humbling and prideful. (Camp’s founder and long-time Camp Director, Josh Steinharter, is still very much with camp and has been promoted to the position of Senior Director). I have been looking for a way to mark this occasion.

When I finished grad school I got an iPhone (it was a BIG deal at the time). When the Cub’s won the world series I made a pilgrimage to Wrigley Field. I even jumped out of an airplane to mark my 30th birthday, but this occasion is different. An occasion worthy of being marked with something meaningful, not just to me, but to my experience at camp.

I considered a new baseball glove. A former competitive baseball player, when I have free time at camp you can often find me on the diamond. One of my fondest memories as a child was going with my father, a Rabbi and former pitcher at the University of Chicago, to buy my first catcher’s mitt. The smell of new leather always brings me back to that moment. But a new glove would easily spend six months a year in the back of my closet.

I thought about a watch. I have always been a collector of interesting timepieces. A watch is something I could use every day and is certainly fitting to mark professional growth. But a watch is almost too personal. I would never really be able to share it with anyone. The same way a glove is meant to be used for playing baseball, I wanted something that could be used at camp.

I closed my eyes and tried to listen to camp. I heard the crack of a bat, a ball being spiked, high fives and silly cheers, and I knew what I wanted.


There is nothing more meaningful to me than playing music. I have been playing a variety of instruments (“playing” may be a bit of a stretch for many of them) for most of my life. But to me, the neck of a guitar has always made more sense than just about anything else in the world. My best moments have been spent shared with people I love, by the campfire, guitar in hand. When I have been at my lowest, and disconnected from others, music has brought me back. Thoughts become clear to me as verses unfold into a chorus and I’m not sure I even know how to drive anymore without singing along to something.

One of the reasons I love camp is because my love of music is combined with the beauty of community. The sound of my guitar starts and ends our day, gets us pounding on tables, and welcomes in Shabbat. Around the campfire my guitar is amplified by the sound of our voices, and I can be the truest and best version of myself.

After over two decades of camp, the guitar that has always been with me will be staying home this summer. While I know she still has a long life ahead of her, the physical trauma that a serious-camp-song-session has on a guitar has caught up with her. She needs to be retired from camp, and I need a new companion. A guitar worthy of leading our Kehilla Kedosha (sacred community) and standing in for a dear friend.


I would like to introduce everyone to Bessie. The very first thing we did was sing “Fly” together. You will all get to meet this summer.


About the Author

Eytan Graubart – Camp Director or 415-997-8844 x2

Eytan has been involved in Jewish camping since he was very young. Before joining the JCC Maccabi Sports Camp team, he served as the Director of Camp BB-Riback in Calgray, Alberta.

Eytan grew up in Chicago, IL, and spent his summers at Camp Young Judaea Midwest in Waupaca, WI.