by Jeremy Levine, Deputy Program Director
Some would say that Bucket Brigade is the most boring event during Color War. All you do is stand in a line, these people say. But I would argue that Bucket Brigade is the most elegantly-constructed Maccabia event — in its simplicity, it is able to create a microcosm of the whole of Color War itself, embodying its central values of organization, communication, tradition, and teamwork, all within an uncomplicated framework.
The concept of Bucket Brigade is deceptively simple: each team is given three buckets of various sizes that they pass up an enormous line from the lake to the dining hall. This straightforward concept presents a strategic quagmire: naturally, one has to distribute the smaller campers throughout the line because the biggest buckets can get really heavy. You’re only permitted to have four hands on a bucket at once, so usually two small campers struggle to hold the biggest bucket. To make sure your buckets get passed up without spilling, you have to distribute staff and older campers evenly to help bear the load.
This seems easy enough, but one must also keep in mind the number of campers in the units and, of course, bypass the fallacy that all Nitzanim or Bonim campers (or even staff) are similarly sized and can bear similar loads. The single largest unit on any given Color War team is actually the staff, but organizing your team with a simple Olim-Nitz-Staff-Bonim-Chav pattern would result in an inefficient Staff-Olim matchup once the Nitz line runs out — so staff should probably go somewhere else. There’s no right way to get around these problems, which is why each team has to prepare for Buckets in its own way — and that information has to be properly communicated by Generals and Captains to make sure that the structure is consistent. Organization is a critical piece of the Maccabia puzzle, and nothing presents a problem with no perfect solution quite like Bucket Brigade. When you have three hundred people in a line, it’s impossible to keep track of all of it.
That’s just the organizational difficulty — the part that usually falls to the Generals. But in Bucket Brigade, every camper and staff member has a burden. Because older campers are expected to help carry the load of younger campers, Buckets becomes a real team-oriented event. It’s true that an event like Apache gives each camper a moment to shine, but those events often give campers a bunch of different jobs — some run torches across camp while others do math problems, or some paddle canoes while others hammer in nails. Buckets is the rare event where campers of every age, at once, are united in one effort: the simple act of carrying a bucket. This is a kind of teamwork in which everyone goes beyond completing an individual event and helps build other people up to a point where they can take on a communal task. In many ways, that’s what a team is trying to do during Maccabia — and it’s all represented in the simple act of passing buckets up a hill.