Campers yelled cheers as they wheeled their team mascots — watermelons — around in baby strollers.
They made canoes out of pool noodles for a canoe race in a swimming pool. They brought silly bribes like doughnut holes, Mardi Gras beads and a potato to the counselors who were judging their every move. Some climbed to the top of a mountain of dirt to recite a quote from an epic movie.
Such was the controlled chaos of Maccabiah Day at Camp Chaverim, the Jewish day camp at Temple B’nai Israel. The annual summer camp is sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Oklahoma City.
Pamela Richman, the camp’s longtime director, said the premise of the activity-filled day is a twist on the Maccabiah Games, an athletic competition often called the “Jewish Olympics,” held every four years in Israel.
She said the games are a popular tradition among campers. Even the smallest campers, the preschoolers, participated in a bean bag challenge, water bucket relay, tug-of-war and relay race.
Ethan Gutierrez, the camp counselor in charge of the day’s activities, said he and other counselors brainstormed to come up with creative, fun and educational things for the campers to do.
“The ultimate goal of the entire day is unapologetic silliness. That’s the best way to describe it,” he said, grinning.
Richman said youths enjoy many traditional summer camp activities, like swimming, arts and crafts and field trips, at Camp Chaverim.
She said the camp also incorporates many aspects of the Jewish faith tradition and culture into the daily activities.
For example, during Shavuot, the Jewish festival marking the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, the Ten Commandments are read in Jewish synagogues and temples. Richman said Camp Chaverim campers created their own set of Ten Commandments during Shavuot, which occurred in early June.
On Maccabiah Day, the campers braided challah bread colored to correspond with their various team colors. Camp counselor Mandy Goats made the braided challah, traditionally eaten on the Jewish sabbath, as the campers competed in the zany games.
Richman said the campers learn the blessings and other aspects of Shabbat, the sabbath, in an educational atmosphere geared to their age levels.
She said the camp typically draws children from different backgrounds and faith traditions. Richman said as they engage in fun activities, campers of all ages learn about tolerance, inclusion and the importance of caring for others.
AT A GLANCE
When: Monday through Friday through July 25.
Where: Temple B’nai Israel, 4901 N Pennsylvania.
Ages: 2 to 14.
Information: 848-3132 or www.jfedokc.org.