By LINDA M. LINONIS
Jewish youths in the Valley will build a gaga pit for an Israeli form of dodgeball and hope area children will go ga-ga over the game and the setting.
The project, which will take place this weekend, is part of J-Serve, global youth service day.
Sarah Wilschek, youth and family program coordinator at the Jewish Community Center, said about 50 Valley youths in ninth- through 12th grades will build the gaga pit.
“No, it has nothing to do with Lady Gaga,” Wilschek said of the name. Actually, gaga in Hebrew means “touch touch.” The game has been a longtime recreational activity at Jewish summer camps and community centers.
From 12:30 to 3 p.m. Sunday, the young people will construct the pit on the playground at the center. Wilschek said the hexagon-shaped court will be made of wood with walls about 30 inches high. The youths also will paint the walls. For now, dirt will suffice as the “floor” but later, indoor-outdoor carpeting may be installed. “We want to keep it a soft surface,” Wilschek said.
After the gaga pit is completed, children will be able to play the game. Wilschek said between 22 and 30 players can be in the pit at the same time. Players swat the ball underhand, trying to hit other players below the waist or knees, depending on local rules. If you’re hit, you’re eliminated from the game.
Wilschek said this is the first time J-Serve has had this kind of project. Another project was creating a community garden.
She said the Jewish youths involved are in classes at the JCC or are members there. Meryl Schor and Noah Persson, students at Liberty High School, are teen leaders for the project.
The gaga pit will be part of the playground at the JCC that is used by students at Akiva Academy and the general public. “It will be a permanent fixture,” Wilschek said.
The gaga pit will be built rain or shine. The free event for families also will feature a DJ and food. To register to participate, call Wilschek at 330-746-3251, ext. 152.