Fun with water balloons at JCC Maccabi Sports Camp during summer 2019. (Photo/Courtesy JCC Maccabi Sports Camp)
Fun with water balloons at JCC Maccabi Sports Camp during summer 2019. (Photo/Courtesy JCC Maccabi Sports Camp)

Maccabi sports camp merging with Palo Alto JCC

Josh Steinharter, founder of the first Jewish sports overnight camp on the West Coast, is hyped.

“It’s super exciting for us,” the JCC Maccabi Sports Camp head said. “It’s just a really great opportunity.”

Steinharter is full of enthusiasm about what’s ahead for the much-loved summer camp now that it’s merging with the Palo Alto-based Oshman Family JCC, which will allow for camp to expand and create more options for kids.

“The ideas are just starting to bubble,” said Sally Kauffman Flinchbaugh, the JCC’s chief operating officer. “But there are so many opportunities.”

Although there are plans for year-round programming in the future and leadership projects for teens, Steinharter said nothing will change for campers next summer and camp will remain at its Menlo College location in Atherton. The merge, to be finalized early next year, will mean senior camp staff become JCC staff from now on.

“We’re super excited we’re able to take on some seasoned camp professionals and Jewish professionals onto our team,” Flinchbaugh said.

JCC Maccabi was founded in 2014 to appeal to kids who don’t want to have to choose between a sports camp and a Jewish camp. It serves children in grades 3 to 11, who get four hours of training each day in baseball, basketball, soccer, tennis or volleyball, with Jewish values and rituals woven into the schedule. There’s also a day camp option for kids in grades 3 through 6.

“I do take a lot of pride in what we’ve created in the past six years,” Steinharter said.

Steinharter developed the concept at the Foundation for Jewish Camp’s Specialty Camp Incubator. At the time it was the only camp of its kind on the West Coast (another in Los Angeles was founded in 2016). Like other camps that came out of the program, it received $1.16 million over four years, Steinharter said. Besides camp fees, it also receives funding from local foundations, according to Steinharter, including the Koret Foundation, Taube Philanthropies, the Pritzker Family Foundation and the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation, as well as individual donors.

The Oshman Family JCC also has a summer camp, plus year-round programming in sports, arts and culture, and a preschool and after-school program. Flinchbaugh said the support of the large institution will make scaling up more possible for Maccabi and allow it to expand its reach.

“This is going to benefit not just the Palo Alto community but the Bay Area community,” she said. “And ideally the community beyond the Bay Area.”

Registration for summer 2020 is coming soon, according to the JCC Maccabi Sports Camp website. For details, visit maccabisportscamp.org.

Maya Mirsky
Maya Mirsky

Maya Mirsky is a J. Staff Writer based in Oakland.