Rachel Slaton, Associate Director, URJ 6 Points Sports Academy
Associate Director, URJ 6 Points Sports Academy
Former BJE Graduate Student Intern
I think there’s something for everyone in Jewish education. That’s the beauty of North American Judaism, especially in a community like Los Angeles. There are so many different ways to connect and find meaning. For some families, it might be a formal day school experience; for others it might be synagogue life and religious school in all its forms, and for others it’s camp. Some families are able to mix-and-match multiple expressions to fit their lifestyle. I don’t see any of these choices as being at odds with each other.
Our camp has kids who go to day school, kids who are active members at a synagogue, and from families that have no “official” affiliation other than just identifying as Jewish. And for all of them, camp is a completely different way of living Judaism. That’s what I think Jewish education offers – different ways for people to live their Judaism.
I really believe that being an athlete and the values you practice on the court or on the field can enhance your Jewish experience, identity, your connection to Judaism. And on the flip side, Jewish traditions, rituals and simply being surrounded by other Jews, can enhance your athletic experience. Sports and Judaism are both community builders, so to bring them together seems so obvious to me. I never went to Jewish summer camp as a kid because I didn’t want to give up sports. And as an adult I’ve thought about how many kids, and their families, are making the same decision because on the surface, sports and Judaism can appear incompatible. It’s so far from the truth, and my dream was, and continues to be, to make it possible for kids and families to see how truly natural it is through the vehicle of summer camp.
I think being a Builder of Jewish education means building inroads for connection. Most of our families would not otherwise have chosen a Jewish camp were it not for the ability to have a top notch athletic experience. About 20 percent of our campers this summer are not affiliated with a synagogue – which is really only ONE measure of a family’s connection with being Jewish, but an important indicator nonetheless. So, we’re making Jewish experiences for kids accessible and approachable across denomination, affiliation and identification. We have an opportunity to open the door to Jewish learning through sport to families and kids who wouldn’t otherwise get this experience. And we know that Jewish summer camp experience is one of the most powerful experiences that grounds children and young adults in Jewish connectedness, year-round and life-long.