Maccabi Games Win Gold

“An experience I will carry with me for the rest of my life,” said Israeli native Omar on the Maccabi Games. This past week Jewish teens from 23 delegations including Cleveland, Canada, Las Vegas, San Francisco, and even Israel traveled to Columbus, Ohio to compete in an Olympic-style competition. The JCC Maccabi Games are the second largest organized sports program for Jewish teens in the world and provide them with a deeper cultural understanding of Judaism and long lasting friendships.

The Maccabi Games kicked off with an Opening Ceremony sponsored by the Columbus Jewish Foundation.  The July 24 event at the Greater Columbus Convention Center began with the traditional Parade of Athletes. The Ceremony featured guest speakers and the Bexley High School Vocal Ensemble which performed the national anthems of the participating countries.

A moving tribute to the Munich 11, who lost their lives in the 1972 Olympic Games, followed and involved the entire audience.  “The Munich 11 and the singing of Hatikvah were my favorite part of the Opening Ceremony,” stated Israeli, Ido, “In Israel we often forget about the community we have here in America. Hearing everyone remember the Munich 11 and 850 teens singing Hatikvah was beautiful. You all stand with us, it’s important to remember that we are together as Jews.”

The evening closed with a Cirque Dreams spectacular that amazed all present with circus themed acrobatics.  This performance was overwhelmingly one of the most popular elements of the Ceremony and set an enthusiastic tone for the week of competition that would follow.

The Games included head to head competition in tennis, baseball, basketball, soccer, volleyball, tennis, golf, table tennis and swimming. All of the events occurred with high energy as athletes and spectators, teens and adults alike, cheered for their home team.  Coach Jeff from Las Vegas stated, “I’m trying to help my kids win the game but exposure to Judaism is more important than that.” Through the nine different types of sporting competitions offered at the games, one factor remained consistent. After each event members of the opposing team, different parts of the country or even the world were seen walking, talking, and laughing together; it was as if they had been friends forever. “After volleyball, I loved making friends with the girls I just competed against. We are all Jewish, we all love our sport, it’s just easy” said Columbus teens Annie and Gabbi.

A longstanding Maccabi Games tradition is trading city pins with other delegations during the games and exchanging team shirts, sweatshirts, and gear on the last day.  It’s not just the teens doing the trading – delegation heads, coaches, and staff of the host city are in as well.  When the teens return home, they typically have something from each city and country represented at the games.  “So far I have Canada, Mexico, Israel, San Francisco, and Columbus. These pins remind me of being here and making all of these friends. I will cherish it forever,” gushed Dasi from San Francisco.

Maccabi demonstrated Tikkun Olam with JCC Cares, a day of community service learning projects. Athletes participated in projects on Wednesday such as creating tissue paper Cynthia’s Flowers for Kids with Cancer, assisting with the elderly at Wexner Heritage Village, playing sports with special Olympians and many more. The Maccabi JCC Cares program promotes the core Jewish value of community involvement.

Having hosted the JCC Maccabi games four times prior, Columbus ran the event smoothly and passionately and as a result, the athletes vocalized their love for our host city. Teens commented on the friendliness and sense of community they experienced in Columbus. “Everyone is so warm here. It’s a good town, I bet it’s a good town to live in,” said Shila from Israel.  “Oh, and the ice-cream. Graeter’s is very good!” Another teen, Max from San Francisco, stated, “It’s really humid here compared to San Fran but I don’t mind. It’s nice to have all of these Jews come together in a place so friendly and welcoming. I don’t think I met one mean person!”

The Maccabi Games Closing Ceremonies were held last night for the athletes, coaches, delegation heads, and host families.  A spectacular fireworks display capped off the evening.

Maccabi instills friendships and a deeper connection to Judaism into the lives of the participating teens. Through all of Columbus’ volunteers, sponsors, host families, and the JCC staff, the Maccabi Games brought together Jewish teens from around the world.

By: Hope Louis

Hope is a returning summer intern at the Columbus Jewish Foundation.  She is an active participant in the Foundation’s B’nai Tzedek Youth Philanthropy program and is a member of the Columbus Jewish Youth Foundation.







Click the following links to view Maccabi 2016 videos posted by the JCC:

2016 JCC Maccabi Games Opening Ceremonies – Welcome From Karen & Jon Meyer


JCC Maccabi Games Opening Ceremonies – Delegation Procession


2016 JCC Maccabi Games Opening Ceremonies – Munich 11 Tribute


2016 JCC Maccabi Games Opening Ceremonies – Torch Lighting


2016 JCC Maccabi Games Opening Ceremonies – Cirque Dreams Finale


Josh Radnor’s Message to Columbus JCC Maccabi Games

Star Reporters Video of Columbus JCC Maccabi Games

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