Meet Craig Cohen

Watching his older brother play baseball for JCC Maccabi, Craig Cohen knew he wanted the same experience.

What could be more exciting than traveling to another city with a bunch of teens while playing the sport he loved? But Craig never anticipated that a Maccabi experience would be so much more than a series of competitions. In fact, it became, in his own words, something that changed his life.

For the four years he played second base on Baltimore’s Maccabi baseball team, Craig gained confidence, became more outgoing and made friends who, he knew, always “had my back.”

“I met friends from different schools, from different Jewish backgrounds. Some were Orthodox, and others came from interfaith families. But what was amazing was that we were bound together by this common experience. We were part of something bigger within the Jewish community.”

In addition to competing, athletes volunteer as part of the Maccabi experience. Craig, along with his teammates, participated in a variety of volunteer projects from cleaning up streams and parks to preparing sandwiches for homeless shelters. Craig also volunteered with his high school baseball team, teaching baseball skills to students with special needs.

That experience taught Craig something special. “What affected me most about these kids was how much fun they were having. At the end of the day, that’s what sports is all about.”

In his final year of eligibility, Craig learned he had received the highest honor given to a Baltimore Maccabi athlete. At the Maccabi pinning ceremony, in front of family, friends and other athletes, he receives the Charles Levine Tikkun Olam award. The award is given to a Maccabi athlete each year who best demonstrates commitment and dedication to community service.

Maccabi was such a powerful experience that Craig wants to continue his involvement, even though he has aged out of the program. Ultimately, he would like to coach in some capacity.

His own coach, he says, was like “a friend, a brother and a parent. He had such a huge impact on me – he even wrote my college recommendation – I want to make a similar impact. It was a life-changing experience. It’s why I’m so passionate and why I’m involved with the JCC.”

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