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.
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.
Lilly is a 4th grade soccer player from Mountain View, CA and last summer was her first time at a sleepaway camp. Months after her camp experience, Lilly created this list of her Top 10 Favorite Things about JCC Maccabi Sports Camp to share with other kids who are interested in coming to camp. Thanks, Lilly, for creating this awesome list and we can’t wait to see you this summer!
1. My top favorite thing at camp is having fun with everything and getting to know everyone who was there
2. My 2nd favorite thing is swimming every day. (You have to pass a test at the beginning to get into the water, also you don’t have to swim every day.)
3. My 3rd favorite thing at camp is trying out new sports/things everyday during elective time.
4. My 4th favorite thing at camp is getting to do your favorite sport everyday (my core sport was soccer) for 5 hours except for Saturdays which is Shabbat.
5. My 5th favorite thing is getting to meet new people that are different ages, from different places and different schools.
6. My 6th favorite thing is the color war [Maccabi Cup] which was team DAIRY (green) vs. team MEAT (blue) and DAIRY won (I was on DAIRY). Another session it was GATORADE (green) vs. WATER (blue) and again green won (which was GATORADE.) Color war is where you do challenges to earn points and at the end of the competition Josh and Mara count up all the points and that determines which team wins.
7. My 7th favorite part of camp is all the other girls because there is very few of them compared to the boys and that makes all the girls work together very nicely and get closer.
8. My 8th favorite thing at camp is the counselors. For example my main counselor usually jumped on my bed to wake me up and that was “fun”. Another thing is that another girl counselor during rest hour would offer to do our hair and do our nails.
9. My 9th favorite thing is the talent show where you and/or a group of people think of something and do it during a talent show, for example some girls in my group did the cup song but wrote a camp version.
10. My 10th favorite thing about camp is the food. I like it because you get to personally chose your food. They have pasta a lot and they always have a salad bar and you get to have one dessert per day.