The JCC Maccabi Experience

14U Baseball players from Team Rockland and Team Philly bonding after an intense game.

Our lives are often said to be an accumulation of our experiences. Although I grew up in an inter-faith household, I am a byproduct of a life full of both positive and negative Jewish experiences. My Jewish upbringing, learning experiences and the people who encouraged me along the way are all responsible for influencing my chosen career path.

Attending nursery school at the local synagogue, waking up on Sunday mornings for Hebrew school and being invited to extravagant Bar and Bat Mitzvah parties are some of the typical Jewish experiences one may grow up remembering. For me, that was the extent of my “extra-curricular” Jewish activities.

This past summer, I was able to be a part of the 2015 JCC Maccabi Games — a weeklong Olympic-style sporting competition for Jewish teens from around the world. Over 1,500 teens participated in the Games and ArtsFest with representation from over 38 cities worldwide. Throughout the week, teens participated in sports competitions, mitzvah projects and had the opportunity to socialize with other Jewish teens from around the globe. The Games are not only a phenomenal experience, but provide an opportunity to learn valuable lessons to carry through life.

Sports have an overwhelming power of bringing people together. There is no greater camaraderie than that of two rival teams, from different cities, bonding after a game over a mutual love for a sport. The games teach that those who compete too harshly and bitterly end up missing the amazing capacity to build lifelong friendships.

Ultimately, the JCC Maccabi Games extend far beyond the confines of a sports tournament. The games endow teens from across the globe with lifelong skills, countless lessons, and an unfaltering love and appreciation for Jewish life.

I have said this before and I will say it again — when you work for a company you believe in and when you are surrounded by people who share the same enthusiasm, it’s not work anymore. It’s a passion. I am beyond grateful for outstanding coaches who truly embraced what these games are all about. And I am blessed to have been given the opportunity to be part of such a meaningful experience for teens in my community. I can hardly wait to lead Team Rockland at next year’s games in Stamford!

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