Honorable Mensch-ion

The Mensch Award

This week, I traded my suit and tie for a t-shirt, shorts, and sneakers, as over 80 campers attended Sinai Temple Basketball Camp, with long days full of conditioning, learning new skills and drills, and engaging in hard fought competition.

Yet, this year has been different. Sinai Temple Basketball Camp now places a strong emphasis on social action. While our younger campers perform a mitzvah a day, be it food and book donations, or writing cards to homebound members of our community, our older campers take time out of their basketball schedules to be trained in special education.

Today, ten special needs athletes from KEEN (Kids Enjoying Exercise Now) will be mentored in a clinic, led by our own campers. As I sat in the training session, the teenagers asked, “How do I approach someone different?” “What if they don’t like me?” “Will I really make a difference?” I watched these young adults open their minds to something new, and ultimately something sacred. As they hesitantly raised their hands, they had little belief in themselves. Just one hour later, I observed a different scene; confident mature souls ready to change the world.

Our Torah teaches us that Moses did not enter the land of Israel because he did not think the people would believe in him. Who was he to lead this group to the Promised Land? The Talmud writes, “They are believers, the sons of believers; you, however, will ultimately fail to believe.”

It often takes those around us to make us believe. We see small acts, and the sacred spark ignites, burning deep in our soul. Each day, we conclude our camp with the Mensch Award, given to a camper who best exhibits the characteristics of being a good person, a good teammate, and someone who believes not only in themselves, but also in others. Think about who you would choose for your Mensch Award….Honor that person this Shabbat, for our world is truly in need of more mensches.

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