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.
Strength In Character
During the Passover season, we retell the story of our ancestors’ fight to escape from bondage. As the story goes, Moses was minding his own business, tending to his sheep, when he heard his name echoing through the hillside. The voice, it appeared, was coming from a bush that was engulfed in flame without being consumed. This was his call to leadership. Of course, we don’t all get called to our roles as leaders in such grandiose ways.
Moses was asked to stand up in front of the (metaphorical) room and be the voice of his community. This is a very important form of leadership, though certainly not the only form. Each of us is called to leadership in different ways, and being a leader looks different for each of us. Not everyone leads from the front of the room or the top of the leaderboard. Some of us lead from the middle of the group, some from the side, and others step up by stepping back.
In sports, as in life, the greatest leaders are not always the ones with the most media attention or with the most friends on Insta. A recent article about Clippers guard Lou Williams talks about his indispensable role within his team, as a player who has come off the bench for most of his career. He shared that he understood that he was not meant to be the top-scoring player, always in the limelight. His strength was his ability to step into any position on the court and be a rock for his team. He showed true leadership and strength of character by helping his team, the fans, and the world see the importance of knowing yourself and your value. By stepping back from the limelight, he was able to step up into his true role as a leader.*
Leadership may look different to each one of you. But one thing is clear: each of you has the capacity to lead, and each of you is Strong in Character!
* Lou Williams has twice won the 6th Man of the Year Award and is now the all-time leader in bench scoring.
Do you know someone who has displayed Strength in Character in your community? Nominate them now!
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.
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.
A message from our Board Chair, Rick Gordon:
Josh Steinharter Honored with “Golden Bagel” Award
The Jewish Sports Hall of Fame of Northern California will be awarding camp director Josh Steinharter with the Golden Bagel Award this Sunday, November 15, 2015. The Golden Bagel is an honor bestowed upon individuals who have made a significant impact in sports and the Jewish community in Northern California.
Since moving to San Francisco in 2005, Josh has been a coach, a program director, a mentor, and is now the founder and director of JCC Maccabi Sports Camp. The reason Josh is receiving this award has little to do with the titles he has held, and more to do with the impact he has made with his actions. In all of Josh’s endeavors he has acted with integrity and has shaped our community’s children by leading by example.
In doing so, Josh has shown so many young people that they can channel various aspects of their character and Jewish identity through sport.
I share Josh’s feelings that there is something uniquely special about sports; it can involve anyone and everyone and it can teach us so much about ourselves and the world around us. Josh helps kids experience this and notice it for their own self-reflection and development of their character. This is the mission we hold near and dear to us as JCC Maccabi Sports Camp, and as a result, wonderful outcomes happen every day of the summer.
I am excited to see the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame celebrating Josh’s unwavering commitment and achievements. It makes me very proud to serve on the boards of both of these organizations.
If you’re interested in supporting the great work of Josh and the JCC Maccabi Sport Camp team, please consider making a contribution.