On July 9, the opening ceremony for the 41st JCC Maccabi Games, the world’s largest Jewish youth sporting event co-hosted by JCC Association of North America and Maccabi World Union, was held at the International Convention Center Haifa. In conjunction with the celebration of Israel’s 75th anniversary, this year’s Maccabi Games galvanized more than 1,000 Jewish teens from 10 countries on four continents (North America, Africa, Europe, and Asia) including those from Ukraine and, for the first time, the Abraham Accords country of Morocco, whose young athletes were able to partake in the festivities due to the JCC Association’s partnership with BBYO.
Highlights of an opening ceremony that was equal parts moving and aesthetically pleasing included a recorded address from President of Israel Isaac Herzog; Washington Wizards small forward and Israeli native Deni Avdija lighting the torch to signify the official opening of the Maccabi Games; a tribute to Shlomit Nir-Toor, an Israeli former Olympic swimmer and Maccabiah champion, who represented her homeland in the 1968 and 1972 Olympics, the latter of which coincided with her surviving the Munich Massacre at the Olympic Village; as well as a tribute to Nicol Faiglin, the runner-up to the 2022 World Youth Fencing Championships and second-place winner of the European Girls’ Fencing Championship.
Meanwhile, the hundreds of athletes and coaches on hand were serenaded by music from the globally recognized and award-winning Shalva Band, which features musicians with disabilities, and Mayoumana, a very popular interactive performance group.
This year marked both the return of the JCC Maccabi Games to Israel for the first time since 2011 and the largest Israeli delegation to ever represent the country (11 different communities were represented) in the history of the Games.
“The JCC Maccabi Games are perhaps the most extraordinary Jewish peoplehood initiative of our time,” exclaimed Doron Krakow, president and CEO, JCC Association. “Drawing teens from JCC communities across North America, Israel, and around the globe, the Games bring us together through competition, service, and a profound encounter with the wider Jewish world. To be returning to Israel as part of the ongoing celebration of the country’s 75th anniversary year and the enduring fulfillment of the dream of the modern Zionist movement is a source of enormous pride for all of us.”