What Maccabiah Teaches Us

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By Lisa David

It’s been another incredible week here at Harlam – made extra special by Maccabiah (Color War)! We just concluded the three-day/three-night competition, which was filled with special traditions, creative activities, and so much fun. There are a variety of ways to engage in the competition – no matter what your passions are: There are sports, games, singing, dancing, painting team plaques, and even rope burn, where our oldest campers gather materials to build a fire that will burn a rope hanging above it as quickly as possible. While most see this program as fun and games, as with most things at camp, the learning and growth often are the core of the experience and intensified by the unique environment of camp.

I was so impressed with our incredibly creative staff who planned all the amazing activities – some favorites were The Pool is Lava (a swim meet) and TripAdvisor, where we did travel trivia to match our Maccabiah theme. As a three-day, camp-wide special event, I’m always amazed at the opportunity it presents as a youth-led experience: CITs were majors and our staff were generals, and campers of all ages stepped up into leadership roles.

One of the things that makes Maccabiah special is watching campers of different age groups getting to know each other better and supporting each other, and they all displayed such maturity when it came to competing. They were also great at leaving the competition at the door when they got back to the bunk, and enjoying being together as a bunk “family.”

On the first day of Maccabiah, I stopped by a ping pong table at Woodside to play with the Kineret campers. I heard one camper say to the other, “go easy on her!” It led to a discussion about real competition – having compassion for your teammates and opponents, but also playing with your heart and being ready to win OR lose. It was a timely lesson, as throughout camp our campers were living that lesson throughout Maccabiah.

Whether they won or lost, everyone enjoyed our longtime traditions like silent meal, Tug of War, Rope Burn, and all teams rising as each sings an Alma Mater. It’s so special to see these traditions passed down from year to year. We concluded the competition with Shabbat, like we do every week, and everyone put their colorful Maccabiah clothing aside to join together all in white. It was a beautiful way to recharge before our next incredible week of camp.

I am proud of the fact that we are able to bring Jewish substance and meaning even into the competitive days that make up Maccabiah. The way that we hold up sportsmanship, mutual support, and keeping a positive attitude are all reminders of what makes Harlam so special.

It is remarkable how time here has flown, and how close we are to the conclusion of the session. It has been a fabulous, full session, and we will no doubt savor together these final days of fun, learning, and community.

Lisa David is Camp Harlam’s Director, a former Harlam camper and staff member, and a proud parent of 3 Harlam campers.