How the Values I Learned at Jewish Camp are Helping Me Save Lives

Inside Leadership

How the Values I Learned at Jewish Camp are Helping Me Save Lives

Three teenage boys wearing URJ 6 Points Sports Academy shirts

On February 14, 2018, everything changed: That’s the day 17 people were killed in the shooting at my school, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (MSD) in Parkland, FL.

Like so many others, my friend Luke Rothstein and I were devastated by the deaths of our friends and teachers – and we felt compelled to do something.

I recently wrote for ReformJudaism.org about how Luke and I, inspired by our strong Jewish upbringings and our religious school learning, became passionate about Stop the Bleed, a public health campaign in which bystanders become trained, equipped, and empowered to help in bleeding emergencies before professional help arrives. I wrote, in part, about how my time at URJ 6 Points Sports Academy North Carolina influenced my Jewish values and, ultimately, my work on the Stop the Bleed campaign – but there’s so much more to say about it.

This past summer, as I returned to camp for my fifth and final year as a camper, I couldn’t help but remember that when I was a younger camper, I looked up to the oldest campers and couldn’t wait to become one myself – and this summer didn’t let me down.

For me, 2019 was truly the best summer ever at 6 Points. The last chance to be a camper added maturity and appreciation for my 6 Points summer family, and all were contributing factors – and I learned so much that continues to help drive my work with Stop the Bleed.

One of my favorite times at camp is Maccabiah, a 24-hour, camp-wide program in which the entire camp – including campers, counselors, and CITs – split into two teams, Blue and Gold, to compete against each other in our sports majors and all sorts of other fun activities.

Leadership is one of the most important Jewish values we learn at camp, and the leadership roles during Maccabiah are ones to which everyone aspires. Only the oldest campers are eligible to be Maccabiah captains, and they must be nominated by their counselors. This summer, I was selected by leadership to serve as captain, and I final got to experience the great honor to serve my team in a manhegut (leadership) position.

One of the captain’s responsibilities is take the half-court shot in the all-camp relay, which takes place near the very end of Maccabiah. Feeling a bit nervous and exhausted from competing and cheering on my team all day, I took my position to wait as the other campers raced into the gym.  Suddenly, it was before me: five years of thinking about this moment, and in an instant, it was over.  I did it! I made the half-court shot on the first try and led my team to victory! I even went down in camp history, tying a record set by one of my very first counselors five years ago.

My triumphant teammates and I felt exhilarated after our success in the games, but afterward, when the entire camp came come back together, we were reminded of the most important thread that brings us together: our camp kehillah (community).

I got to thinking about all the many ways that my Jewish values have inspired and informed my Stop the Bleed work – and so many of them come from the core values learned at 6 Points.

  • Teamwork: We’re making change by working together with our mentors in the fire department.
  • Growth: We’re trying something new and constantly learning – and becoming better people as we do so.
  • Sportsmanship: We’ve developed integrity, respect, kindness, and appreciation.
  • Intention: Everything we do, we do with a purpose: spreading awareness about Stop the Bleed can save lives.
  • Pride: We’re helping to build a strong community at MSD and in Parkland, a place where everyone is respected and honored for who they are.
  • Leadership: As we recognize and bring out the best in those with whom we work, we’re becoming role models for others.

Luke attends a Jewish summer camp in Pennsylvania, which also incorporates Jewish traditions and values. This summer, he advocated and raised money during the camps’ annual Sports-a-Thon fundraiser, and all the money he raised will go toward Make Our Schools Safe Stop the Bleed.

As Luke and I enter our junior year at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, I’m taking the confidence and Jewish values that URJ 6 Points Sports Academy North Carolina has taught me and holding them close. We have big plans for Stop the Bleed this year (read about them here), and we will continue to emulate and embody the values we learned at home, in religious school, at MSD, and at Jewish summer camp as we continue to spread the message about the Stop the Bleed campaign – and work together to save lives.

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Jason Halpern is a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (MSD) in Parkland, Florida. He is a co-founder of M·S·D mind · strength · determination Stops the Bleed and one of the founding members of Make Our Schools Safe Club (MOSS) at MSD. Jason enjoys sports, is an honors student, and a member of the MSD varsity track team.  

Jason Halpern

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