Josh Steinharter, Camp Director and Founder of JCC Maccabi Sports Camp, reflects on how far we’ve come in the past year.
Today marks 180 days until the first day of camp…the very first day of JCC Maccabi Sports Camp! It also happens to be December 18th.
Now, I don’t want to overstate the significance of the number “18” showing up twice, but I just can’t ignore it either as the number 18 is an important number in Judaism signifying the Hebrew word “Chai” meaning “life”. As the last year, or 15 months, has been dedicated to bringing life to a new Jewish overnight sports camp, let’s take a moment to reflect on the year and acknowledge some of our accomplishments.
In the past year, we:
- Created a new brand and designed a beautiful marketing presence
- Found a home for camp at Menlo College in Atherton, CA
- Set up a new business, including securing not-for-profit tax exempt status and all the other fun aspects of setting up a business
- Hired Mara Berde, an experienced and creative Assistant Director
- Opened a new office in San Francisco (moved out of my apartment!)
- Met hundreds of families, educators, rabbis and other exciting people in the Jewish community around the country
- Launched registration and signed up our first campers!
In the spirit of these accomplishments and the numerical significance of the day, I searched for a famous Jewish athlete who wore the number 18.
The best I could find was Gabe Kapler who wore #18 while playing for the Texas Rangers in 2002.
Though, if you really understand the symbolic nature of Chai, you know that it’s the numerical representation of two Hebrew letters that when combined add up to 18. The letter Chet is the 8th letter of the Hebrew alphabet and the letter Yud is the 10th. So, in the absence of uncovering a player who sported the #18, I instead turned to a more genuine representation of Chai, players who wore #8 and #10.
This brings us to a modern and historical connection of Ryan Braun (#8) and Moe Berg (#10 while with the Washington Senators in 1933)
Ryan Braun, now a controversial player, was at one time on his way to becoming arguably the greatest Jewish baseball player of all time. He’s fallen out of favor with the masses due to his use and subsequent denial of said usage of performance enhancing drugs. He has recently admitted to his missteps and has been seeking to regain the confidence of his teammates, fans and community, something which takes great humility and courage. These are markings of strong character, an important value of JCC Maccabi Sports Camp. Like him or hate him, it’s hard to deny the difficult road he faces and for that we support Ryan Braun.
Now for a different kind of Jewish baseball player, one who is better known, if at all, for his achievements off the field. Referred to as one of the best educated, intellectually accomplished and patriotic Jewish athletes in history, Moe Berg is less known for his time in the bigs and more remembered for his time as a US spy in World War II. So, while he didn’t have the most glorious career on the baseball field, his achievements in the classroom and contributions on the battlefield, risking his life to battle the Nazis in WWII, are to be celebrated. Prior to defending our country in the War, Berg graduated magna cum laude from Princeton and then attended Columbia Law School, finishing second in his class, all while playing major league baseball!
Can you name a famous Jewish athlete who wore #18? Maybe you know of a different 8 & 10 combination to help us say “L’Chaim” to JCC Maccabi Sports Camp!