By Rabbi Mark Cohn, Rabbi of Temple Emanuel in Winston-Salem, NC
I remember when 6 Points Sports Academy opened nine years ago. It took me a minute (or more!) to realize… “Oh! I get it… 6 Points… like the SIX points on the JEWISH star!” Clever. And hidden. And yet so obvious. What a great metaphor for this URJ camp that has been so successful. It is successful in its living Jewish values. It is successful in its creating a Jewish neshama (soul) for the community of staff and campers and faculty who grace its corridors, playing fields, and dorms. It is successful in working to bring Jewish children together for what we all want for them: Pride in being Jewish; Fun while being Jewish; Safety in living Jewish; Learning about being Jewish.
I grew up attending URJ Camp Swig/Newman in northern California. My family has had someone at Camp Swig/Newman since 1969—nearly every year as a camper or staff or on the board and often a combination of those with multiple Cohns (and descendants) present. I LOVE JEWISH CAMP, and the URJ camps are a part of why and how I became a rabbi and how I “rabbi” as a rabbi. As a child, I never would have gone to a camp like 6 Points because I’m not much of an athlete… and yet after hanging around today, I am so ready to go and play Frisbee and tennis and have been assured that any presumed lack of skill will be a non-issue for me! That being said… I probably will not major in basketball or soccer just to be safe.
I cannot tell you, as a rabbi and a parent of a URJ camper and staff member, how grateful I am that the URJ camps continue to be full of energetic 20-somethings (and older) who carry remarkable responsibility in implementing the mission of “Living Judaism.” On and off the court or field, in and out of the bunks (well dorm rooms as the case may be), I saw laughter, support, engagement, attention, calm, and energy. Currently, our synagogue has six of its kids at 6 Points: Three on staff and three as campers. And the smiles and happiness were evident. I know how pleased I am to send our kids to Jewish summer experiences whether through the Union or elsewhere. But I am particularly proud of our Union for providing a quality experience for our temple kids.
I stopped by 6 Points to hang out and have lunch on its first full day of life for the summer. Anyone who knows camping knows that the first day is “Transport/Arrival” and is full of chaos and newness and settling in. The first full day typically maintains that newness and settling in. At 6 Points, they were clearly settled, shvitzing, happy, high-fiving, and sure of who they were and what was going on. Please God, it should be a good and safe and fun and meaningful summer for all of our campers at all of our URJ Camps.
Those six points of our people’s Jewish star each come with a value and a meaning: sportsmanship, teamwork, growth, intention, leadership, and pride. These are quintessential values not only for camp but also in our personal lives, and in our congregations where we foster Jewish living every day. Yishar koach, 6 Points Sports Academy! May you go on in strength and thank you for all you bring to our children and larger Reform Jewish community.
Rabbi Mark Cohn proudly serves as the rabbi for Temple Emanuel of Winston-Salem, NC, where b’nei mitzvah students learn how to throw a Frisbee while simultaneously reciting the blessings of the evening and morning services.