A Jewish Summer Camp Alum Heads to the Olympics!
What does Reform Judaism have to do with the Olympics? Chicagoan Jason Brown is an alumnus of URJ Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute, a Reform Jewish summer camp in Oconomowoc, WI - and last month, he came in second in the U.S. Men's Figure Skating Championships, earning him a spot on the team heading to Sochi for the Olympics! Jason, 19, was an OSRUI camper from 2003-2008; siblingss Jordan and Dylan and mom Marla Kell Brown are all alumni as well. OSRUI and the Reform Jewish community are kvelling along with them.
The Chicago Tribune described Jason's long program as "the most electric performance of the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Brown had the TD Garden audience standing, shouting and clapping with 10 seconds left in a free skate to Irish step dance music. The judges applauded in their way, giving Brown first place in the free skate and second overall."
Of course, Jason isn't the first or only Jewish athlete to head to the Olympics. In 2012, 18-year-old Aly Raisman took home gold both personally and as captain of the U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Team. The Raisman family belongs to Temple Beth Avodah, a Reform synagogue in Newton Centre, MA - and Aly's Jewish faith inspired her floor routine set to Hava Nagila!
Arizona figure skater Max Aaron, 21, won't be going to the Olympics this year, having failed to snag one of the two U.S. spots. But Max, raised in a Conservative Jewish home, has a great attitude about serving as an athletic role model for other young Jews. Last February, he told JTA,
I grew up looking to all those Jewish athletes for inspiration. I always thought the list needed to be longer. We needed to have a stronger representation of Jewish athletes, and I'm so happy that I'm part of them now.
Well said, Max!
Below is a video of the award-winning performance that snagged Jason Brown a spot on the U.S. Men's Olympic Figure Skating Team. Will you be tuning in to watch him skate in Sochi?