Jul 11, 2019
The days here at Ranch Camp start out bright and early, most cabins shaking off sleep around seven. Unlike what may be the case during the school year, these mornings are met with no complaints or groans – instead, the day is greeted with excitement. Anticipation for what the next few hours will hold pours out of every cabin, dousing the camp in energy. This particular morning was especially bright and early, the excitement in the air especially energetic. Instead of being woken by their counselors, campers were roused by pounds on doors and blowing horns amid cheers and shouts of “It’s Maccabiah!”
The entire camp poured out of their beds at once, racing to throw on their brightly-colored clothes and meet at degel, the morning circle, fifteen minutes early. Most were already familiar with Maccabiah, and had been anticipating it all session. Those who had yet to experience this special day caught on quickly with help from their peers, learning that Maccabiah is an all-camp, all-day color war. The entire community splits up into four teams – green, yellow, blue, and red – and spends the day engaged in friendly competition, taking part in all sorts of competitions to earn points for their team. Each Maccabiah has its own unique theme, with today’s being Harry Potter, each color representing a different Hogwarts house.
At breakfast, each team gathered in the commons to cheer on three games of volleyball (one for each age unit) before heading inside to the Chad, where the meal was spent sitting with their teams instead of cabins. Though Maccabiah may appear to be just a full day of fun and games on the surface, a closer look at moments like these reveals the opportunities for cross-cabin friendships to be fostered and teamwork to be strengthened that appear all throughout the day. The ruach, or spirit, of the cheers and chants never tear other teams down. Instead, they lift each other up, instilling confidence and camaraderie in the community, the room brimming with the true spirit of Maccabiah before the first meal of the day is even over.
By the end of breakfast, the sun had warmed away any cool drafts of air from the night before, the sky blue and clear as campers scattered underneath it. Each team spent time creating their own chants, songs, skits, and posters to present to the other groups. Afterwards, the age units traveled around to different stations, competing in trivia, various sports, and even cake decorating, varied and diverse activities that had something for everyone. Next was a silent lunch, both a fun challenge and a respite from the shouting and cheers of the rest of the day, followed by Menucha. In the afternoon was the Macc-o-peel, for many the pinnacle of Maccabiah.
The Macc-o-peel (or, to stick to the theme, the Magic-o-peel) is an all-camp relay race spanning the entirety of the Inner 40. Starting with a race up from the front gate and ending with a water-moving challenge, this is another activity that has a place for everyone. By the time they’ve reached the sports field for the race’s finale, campers might be soaked with water, covered in face paint, or sticky from whipped cream, each contentedly exhausted and proud of their contribution. No matter which team comes in first, everyone celebrates together with a color-powder party. Tonight, as everyone danced together amidst the bright (and washable!) powder, the teams mixed together, no longer separated, all united again as one community.
Such an active day could only be closed by one of the most unique evening programs: a movie night. Though it may seem a basic pastime, movies become novel once again at camp, a projector and a screen suddenly unusual and exciting against the background of the technology-free environment. Campers relaxed and enjoyed the film together, staying warm with the feeling of camaraderie around them despite the setting of the sun on the horizon. The camp was especially quiet tonight, most everyone asleep as soon as their heads hit their pillows, quickly deep in dreams of color and competition, teamwork and strength, ruach and cheer.