Teaching Peace and Friendship Through Ultimate Frisbee

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It is always a thrill for us when we have the opportunity to welcome Eisner alumni back to camp to share their passions and professions with our community. Today, we were joined by former camper, counselor, and unit head Jacob Barr, who now works with Ultimate Peace (UP), a non-profit organization that teaches the values of peace and friendship to youth in the Middle East using Ultimate Frisbee.

Through summer camps, frisbee and leadership training, retreats, and other programming, UP focuses on five core values: friendship, nonviolence, integrity, mutual respect, and fun. The organization brings together Israeli, Arab, and Palestinian youth of all faiths to practice these values on the field, and to learn how to live them throughout their daily lives.

Especially in such a contentious region, where conflicts of all sorts arise often, Jacob stressed that rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, as many often do, it is critical to “actively teach healing, moving forward, and preach love to the next generation.” This is why he joined UP, where he has worked and volunteered in various capacities since 2015.

Jacob spent the morning playing frisbee with our Tzofim and Olim campers, and teaching them about the mission and work of UP. After an opening name game, Jacob spoke about his experience with UP and what drew him to this work. “What makes Ultimate Frisbee different than every other sport?” he asked our campers. The answer: it’s self-officiated. Because the sport has no referees, the players are forced to hold themselves, their teammates, and their opponents accountable, he explained. It leads to an idea known as the “spirit of the game,” which places sportsmanship and respect at the forefront of competition. As Jacob said, Ultimate Frisbee is about “wanting to play more than you want to win.”

Jacob then taught our campers about the five values of UP, and discussed with them what those values should look like on the field. From there, they broke out for some frisbee games. Afterward, they reconvened to form a spirit circle, during which they reflected on the ways they put the values into action. UP places an emphasis on the use of postgame spirit circles as a way to foster positive relationship-building between opposing teams. Especially in the Middle East, it allows kids to meet and bond with those they otherwise would not encounter in their daily lives.

We are very grateful that our community and our teenage campers had the opportunity to learn from Jacob and the work he’s currently doing. And some even got to reconnect with their former Bonim counselor and unit head! Thanks, Jacob!