The Kotzker Rebbe was famous for saying, “Don’t just learn Torah….Be a Torah.” Each June, I have the luxury of wearing shorts and a t-shirt as we open Sinai Temple Basketball Camp. Over 70 kids of all ages and abilities compete at a high level, learn the rules of the game, sportsmanship, and team work. Yet, this camp is what we call “beyond basketball.” Each day we take a break for a life lesson, inviting a hero into our midst, learning about an organization that helps those in need, and working on a project connected to fixing a broken world.
Yesterday, 5 special needs athletes from KEEN (Kids Enjoying Exercise Now) joined our counselors in training and eldest campers as they learned and played together. After a sweaty workout, we concluded our session with “prouds.” Each child takes a turn to tell the camp what they were proud of that day. It was an amazing sight to see—not one child spoke about themselves. Rather, they were most proud of helping the other, feeling better when someone else smiled, putting another needs in front of their own.
Does it work? Absolutely. One athlete came in with a smile, wearing her Sinai Temple Basketball Camp t-shirt from last year. Another 11 year old boy thanked his new friends from Sinai. A mother had tears in her eyes watching her son jump with joy as the ball swished through the net.
My father used to tell me after my team would lose, “It’s only a game…..” This week, many games were played, but I can tell you from witnessing with my own two eyes…It was definitely more than a game—it was a lesson in life.