A Rabbi Who Plays Rugby!

by Rabbi David Spey

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Camper vs. Staff Softball Game

For a job that has almost no assigned tasks or supervision, being a rabbi at camp is both extremely fulfilling and exhausting.  As faculty at 6 Points Sports Academy, the role of a rabbi is unique.  Rather than teaching classes, leading services, and counseling, my job is simply to play with the campers and create relationships with them.  I get to participate in their sports majors and electives lead by their professional coaches.  I function as a dorm parent, living together with a cabin of boys, which are supervised by their cabin counselors.  Really my role at camp is to build relationships with the campers and help them to dispel their preconceptions about who and what a rabbi is.

As a teen, I was in awe of my rabbi.  I thought of him as a huge imposing figure, adorned perpetually in a black robe.  It was only as an adult when I bumped into my childhood rabbi in Israel, atop Masada that I learned the truth.  He stood five foot six and had a wicked sense of humor.  My desire is that our campers and children (my daughter is also a 6 Point’s camper) realize that rabbis are approachable and available people.  We are here to help, teach, laugh, and even cry with them.  But how to do that?

When I have the opportunity to chat with our campers, our athletes, many are surprised to find out that a rabbi can also be an athlete.  I have competed at all levels of sport in high school, to college, and even semi-professionally.  And while I have enjoyed my accomplishments in sport, my involvement in lacrosse, rugby, and yacht racing have been fleeting.  My Jewish identity, on the other hand, is life long.  At 6 Points, I have the opportunity to help our young Jews learn that these two identities are far from contradictory, rather they are complementary.  The values that we embrace as Jews are the same values that help one to be a successful athlete and simple a good person.

I am thankful to the URJ and 6 Points for providing the opportunity for our children to embrace their athletic identities as they cultivate their Jewish identities.  I also thank the URJ and 6 Points for granting me the opportunity to be part of this exciting and fulfilling venture.  Having a great time at camp!

Ready to hit

Ready to hit

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4 Responses to A Rabbi Who Plays Rugby!

  1. Dara Spey July 4, 2013 at 10:26 pm #

    What an inspiring article! It is so important for young people to understand that being Jewish is not separate from the other aspects of themselves, but rather, important to developing all of aspects of who they are and who they want to become. Good luck!

  2. Jordan Friedman July 12, 2013 at 10:18 am #

    “As a teen, I was in awe of my rabbi. I thought of him as a huge imposing figure, adorned perpetually in a black robe.”

    “My desire is that our campers and children realize that rabbis are approachable and available people. We are here to help, teach, laugh, and even cry with them.”

    I see no necessary contradiction between those two statements, Rabbi Spey. What is to prevent a modern Reform rabbi from being both rabbinic “archetypes” at the same time? For me, the ideal rabbi would inhabit an awe-inspiring, majestic sense of classical dignity on the Bimah, and be warm, kind, and approachable outside the Sanctuary. Maybe clergy DO still need to be awe-inspiring, larger-than-life figures to youth, while at the same time being safe pastoral figures who are down to earth.

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