South Florida may be experiencing its hottest summer on record, but the recent string of oppressively humid days didn’t hinder the JCC Association of North America’s 41st JCC Maccabi Games and Access events from taking place in Fort Lauderdale from Aug. 7-11.
Hosted by the David Posnack JCC, this year’s Games involved close to 2,000 Jewish teen athletes comprising 64 delegations from the U.S., Canada, Israel, and five other countries, including Ukraine, which was also represented at last month’s Israel-based Maccabi Games; 350 coaches, as well as one celebrity spectator, Miami Heat star Victor Oladipo. Among the legions of Jewish amateur athletes participating in a wide range of both indoor and outdoor sports including baseball, basketball, ice hockey, girls’ volleyball, flag football, lacrosse, soccer, table tennis, tennis, and swimming, it was estimated that for well over half, the JCC Maccabi Games represented their sole engagement with an organized Jewish youth event and Judaism on a global scale.
Doron Krakow, president and CEO of JCC Association of North America, who referred to the JCC Maccabi Games as “one of the foremost Jewish peoplehood initiatives of our time,” went on to say, “for thousands of athletes, along with coaches, volunteers, host families and a wall-to-wall coalition of Jewish community organizations, this year’s Games are an extraordinary reminder of the capacity for good across a diverse and dynamic Jewish community.”
Such goodwill was on full display with the inclusion of JCC Maccabi Access, a three-and-a-half day JCC Maccabi Games experience for young athletes with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Access was initiated in San Diego during last summer’s JCC Maccabi Games and allows scores of Jewish athletes (ages 12-22) to participate in both unified and specialized activities including athletic competition and skill development, JCC Cares community service, exploration of the JCC Maccabi Midot Values, social activities, and an opening and closing ceremony.
“JCC Maccabi Access is an important opportunity for our movement to demonstrate our commitment to inclusion and to ensure all our programming embodies and reflects our responsibility to uphold this value,” noted Sierra Weiss, the JCC Movement’s Access and inclusion specialist.
“It offers athletes and their families a chance both to join with other families that have had similar experiences and to feel a part of the wider Jewish community in a meaningful way. Every Jewish person has a place in the JCC Movement.”
This year’s JCC Maccabi Games were also noteworthy for the geographic diversity of the competitors. While the United States, Canada, Israel, England, and Mexico sent their customary sizable delegations, three new countries – Argentina, South Africa, and, as previously mentioned, Ukraine – were also present.
“The JCC Maccabi Games have an awe-inspiring, lifelong impact, uniting young Jewish athletes through sport, values, and service and, for many, offering an introduction to the global Jewish community and Israel,” said Samantha Cohen, senior vice president and head of JCC Maccabi at JCC Association and former tennis player at the JCC Maccabi Games. “It’s critical they have this meaningful opportunity in their formative teen years before many head off to college.”
Atlanta’s presence was visible throughout the Games. The Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta was well represented with a 45-member delegation, one that ultimately accounted for gold medals in 14U Baseball and Dance and silver medals in 16U Flag Football and Tennis. Meanwhile, the MJCCA also had teams competing wholeheartedly in boys’ basketball, girls’ volleyball, and swimming.
The JCC Maccabi Games have an awe-inspiring, lifelong impact, uniting young Jewish athletes through sport, values, and service and, for many, offering an introduction to the global Jewish community and Israel…It’s critical they have this meaningful opportunity in their formative teen years before many head off to college.
“We battled record heat (index was over 105 degrees), which required many scheduling changes and last-minute venue updates,” explained Jammie Harrison, sports director at the MJCCA. “Our athletes took everything in stride and we’re so proud of them!”
The weeklong slate of athletic competition was bookended by a beautiful opening ceremony held at the FLA Live Arena in Sunrise, home of the NHL’s Florida Panthers, with more than three dozen state, county, and local officials and prominent Jewish leaders in attendance and a closing ceremony and celebratory dinner reception held on Friday, Aug. 11, which showcased the passing of the JCC Maccabi torch to next year’s host cities.
Speaking of which, looking ahead to next summer, one whose weather will hopefully be more conducive to rigorous athletic competition, the Jewish Community Center of Metropolitan Detroit in West Bloomfield Hills, Mich., will host the JCC Maccabi Games from July 28 to Aug. 2 for athletes ages 12-16; the following month in Houston, the Evelyn Rubenstein JCC will host the JCC Maccabi Games and Access from Aug. 4 to Aug. 9 for athletes ages 12-16 and Access athletes ages 12-22.
The MJCCA is anticipating being able to send a contingent of at least 100 athletes to both Detroit and Houston to proudly represent Atlanta in what has become “one of the most significant Jewish peoplehood initiatives of our time” encompassing well over a half-million Jewish teens, relatives, and volunteers in its decades-long history.
- David Ostrowsky
- JCC Association of North America
- Maccabi Games
- David Posnack JCC
- Victor Oladipo
- Ice Hockey
- Girls Volleyball
- Flag Football
- table tennis
- Doron Krakow
- Maccabi Access
- Sierra Weiss
- Samantha Cohen
- Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta
- Jammie Harrison
- FLA Live Arena