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,
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
Our Team is Growing…Welcome Lauren Bohne, our new Operations Director!
As our community grows, so does our leadership team. We’re very excited to announce that Lauren Bohne has joined us as Operations Director.
Lauren was born and raised in New York City. She moved to the Bay Area four years ago and while she does not miss the East Coast winters, she does often crave a New York bagel. Here is a bit more info about Lauren’s camp history and even a few fun facts!
Which Kind of Camps Have You Worked at Previously?
Most recently I was the Camp and Youth Director at the Osher Marin Jewish Community Center in San Rafael. While there, I oversaw the growth of Camp Kehillah, the only Jewish day camp in Marin. I have always loved playing outdoors and I’ll take any excuse to wear a rainbow tutu, so my summers have always been dedicated to camping! From a camper to CIT, to counselor, Head Counselor, Unit Supervisor, and Director, I have enjoyed almost every role there is at camp. Day camp, sleep-away camp and travel programs – I’ve experienced them all as a camper and as a staff member. And through it all one thing is clear: life’s most important lessons are learned at Jewish summer camp.
How Has Judaism Fit into Your Camping Work?
I grew up in the Reform Jewish movement, as an active participant in my Temple Youth Group and NFTY. I started my career as the Youth Director at a reform congregation in New York. I have worked in Jewish Day Schools in LA and as an education director in Boston. I have lead retreats, Tikkun Olam-based alternate break experiences and trips to Israel. I have taught every grade in Religious School – these days you can find me hanging out with 1st graders in San Rafael on Sundays.
Tell us a Fun Fact (or three) About Yourself?
Let’s see…I played Field hockey in high school, which required wearing bright orange uniforms. Go Eagles! I am currently on a quest to visit all 60 National Parks. I’ve been to 37 parks so far and 49 of the 50 states – Alaska, I’m coming for you! Recently I started training for my very first half marathon with the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation’s Team Challenge. It’s a LOT of miles, but it’s a worthy cause.
What are you most excited for this summer?
I am excited for everything! I can’t wait to meet all of the campers and the staff. I am looking forward to song sessions, campfires and the Maccabi Cup! Plus, I am hoping to get some pointers on my jump shots and how to throw a football with a spiral.
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.
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