Jewish summers for Tidewater teens

by | Sep 13, 2013 | Other News

JCC Maccabi Games and ArtsFest

This summer, the Simon Family JCC gave me the opportunity to learn more about journalism at the Maccabi Games and ArtsFest, This International Jewish Junior Olympic and Artistic conference was held in Orange County, Calif., August 4–9. Specialties to choose from included in sports: baseball, basketball, flag football, lacrosse, inline hockey, soccer, softball, volleyball, bowling, golf, swimming, table tennis, track and field, and tennis; in arts: Acting/Improv, dance, jazz, musical theater, rock band, STAR Reporters, visual arts, and vocal music. The approximate 2,300 Jewish athletes and artists were from across America, Canada, Great Britain, Mexico, and Israel.

Representing the Simon Family JCC were Leah Cooper, Camille Cooper, Billy Goldstein, Alyssa Goldberg, Hallie Stewart, and me, Channa Schachet-Briskin. Ellie Bernstein led the delegation.

The opening ceremonies included a memorial to the 11 murdered Israeli athletes at 1972’s Olympic Games in Munich, Germany. Many of the Maccabi athletes and artists had never heard about this awful moment in history.

At the beautiful and huge Orange County JCC Campus, there were so many people participating, at times it was almost overwhelming. But it was also inspiring to look around and know that all the people there were Jewish. Maccabi expressed a sense that we were a part of something bigger than ourselves.

The evening activities were incredible. Sunday night was the opening ceremonies, where all the delegations were announced and paraded around a packed Santa Ana Stadium. The entertainment was excellent and diverse. Like at the Olympics, the participants took an oath—for this Maccabi Games all the athletes and artists pledged to do our best and play well, fairly, and with Jewish Values. There was even a Torch Passing Ceremony and the lighting of the Maccabi cauldron by members of the Orange County Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. Monday night there was a Beach Party Tel Aviv and California style. It really set the mood for the rest of the week. Tuesday night was Boomers, an enormous arcade with video games, laser tag, bumper boats, mini golf, a water park, an amusement park, and a live DJ. On Wednesday it was a free night with our host families. Thursday’s closing ceremonies was a block party with ice cream, crazy hats, art projects, bouncy houses, and bungee jumps. There was also a rave, with fog machines, laser lights, dancing, and music. Then there were the official closing ceremonies with the passing of the torch to the cities that will host next year’s Maccabi Games: Cherry Hill, N.J.; Boca Raton, Fla.; and Detroit, Mich.

Channa Schachet-Briskin is a sophomore at Virginia Beach Friends School, a graduate of Hebrew Academy of Tidewater, and a song leader at Ohef Sholom Temple.

by Channa Schachet-Briskin


Deni and Madeline Budman, Hannah Galbraith, Channa Schachet-Briskin

Deni and Madeline Budman, Hannah Galbraith, Channa Schachet-Briskin

Home at Kutz

“Welcome home!” As the buses rolled into the open gates of the URJ Kutz Camp, every staff member, avodahnik, and resident advisor greeted new and returning participants with this phrase. Some new campers were puzzled, but as a two-year participant, I can attest that to everyone that travels to Warwick, N. Y., Kutz becomes home.

Four OSTYites—Hannah Galbraith, Channa Schachet-Briskin, Deni Budman, and myself, Madeline Budman—attended Kutz this past summer. The four of us spread out and took advantage of everything that NFTY’s campus for Reform Jewish teens had to offer. Hannah participated in the Creative Arts major, where each artist designed their own final project, a reflection of Judaism and journeys. Channa chose the Songleading major, the biggest major on camp, where she learned a plethora of Jewish music to bring home to Ohef Sholom Temple and NFTY-MAR. Deni attended the Temple Youth Group Leadership major, acquiring all the skills necessary to come home and make OSTY the very best youth group that it can be. I studied with the Torah Corps major, learning a wealth of knowledge and wisdom from the Torah and grappling with some of Judaism’s biggest ethical questions.

Of course, the majors we chose were not the most important part of Kutz. The moments that make Kutz so unique are the moments when we pray as a community by the lake, the moments when a cabin has an open conversation and bunkmates turn into sisters, the moments sharing shade under a willow tree with your best friend, and the moments when the entire camp stands in a circle, arms wrapped around each other to sing the Bedtime Shma and Hashkiveinu. These are the moments that make Kutz feel like home.

by Madeline Budman
Inspired by Israel

This summer I traveled to Israel on a program called L.A.G.I.T.T. (Los Angeles Girls Israel Torah Tours) led by Rabbi and Rebbetzin Wachsman from Chicago.

The Wachsmans spend the summer inspiring and instilling a love for the country into each girl on the program. This program is designed for teenage girls throughout the country to come together in Israel for the experience of a lifetime, and leave truly inspired by what they have seen.

Inspiration can come from many different types of experiences making it essential to spend the precious time in Israel taking part in all sorts of activities. Praying at the kotel at sunrise, volunteering in children’s day camps, learning with world famous authors, fun and challenging hikes, making chocolate, and baking challah were just some of the activities on our group’s schedule. The trip also included an overnight camping trip in the desert, where no technology was allowed, giving every girl the opportunity to truly appreciate her surroundings and to form even stronger relationships with her peers.

At the farewell banquet, the rebbetzin got up and said, “A Jew and Israel are a shidduch. It’s a match made in heaven by G-d, and it simply cannot be denied or broken. It may take a lifetime for one to come to feel this connection, but to give is to love and the more thought and the more time you give to Israel, I guarantee you will come to love it immediately.”

by Jenny Lefcoe