Religious School Olympics


jgDuring a particularly cold week recently, the warmth and spirit of the children of Temple Israel of Great Neck was palpable: “Maccabiah 2014” was underway! While the rest of the world prepared for the Sochi Olympics, the Temple Israel Religious School was proud to host competitions of its own, Olympics Jewish style.

Children were divided into teams of red, blue, yellow and green, and once bedecked in bandanas of their team color, they spent two intense days competing against one another. Competitions were fun and brought out unparalleled enthusiasm.

But, perhaps the content of the competitions was more significant: children competed while counting in Hebrew, and the teams were known by the Hebrew words for their colors. In addition to receiving extra points for sportsmanship, aka kavod (respect), their activities created educational experiences that were fun and inspiring. Relay races reinforced knowledge of Jewish tradition and games tasked each team with displaying knowledge of Israel, Jewish song and dance.

The value of displaying chesed, loving kindness, was as an important part of the Maccabiah: the youngest children decorated “refuah sheleymah,” or get well cards, and signed them “From the children of Temple Israel.” The cards will be laminated and the congregation’s clergy will bring them when they make hospital visits.

“At the end of it all, with all of the team spirit and enthusiastic competition, we were all one, all part of the Temple Israel family,” said Director of Congregational Schools Rabbi Amy Roth. “Now that we have created a new tradition, the big question is: when is Maccabiah going to be next year and how will we be able to replicate the surprise?”

Temple Israel operates three schools: Beth HaGan, a nursery school, The Sondra and David Mack Religious School, an after-school religious program for elementary and middle school-aged children, and The Waxman High School and Youth House, a school for teens continuing their Jewish education after Bar and Bat Mitzvah.

Temple Israel of Great Neck, the region’s largest Conservative Jewish congregation, is located at 108 Old Mill Road. For further information about the Temple Israel schools, call 482-7800 or visit

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