Today is January 26, 2020 -
My 15-year-old son, Levi, has spent the last week in Cherry Hill, N.J., enjoying home hospitality, making friends, and playing basketball for the Albany/Schenectady delegation at the JCC Maccabi Games.
At the opening ceremonies on Sunday evening, each delegation was introduced to a spectacular light display and personalized music. In total, approximately 1,000 Jewish high school athletes, from Israel, England, Mexico, California, Florida, Baltimore, etc., paraded around the arena. As spectators we could feel the competitive energies, tempered with comradery and friendship.
As I’ve expressed many times in this column, I am a huge proponent of any and all opportunities for young Jews to meet and spend time together. We want our kids to join youth groups, visit Israel together, attend communal high schools, and go away to summer camps. The Maccabi Games is another outstanding opportunity.
But, Maccabi is not only about the fun and sports. Toward the end of the opening ceremonies, the program shifted to a memorial for the tragic events of the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. From the Maccabi website:
The JCC Maccabi Games® honor and remember the Munich 11 athletes by memorializing their lives at every Opening Ceremonies. We will never forget the past, but continue looking into the future and encouraging you, Jewish teens, to play sports and live a full and active Jewish life.
I also had the opportunity to overhear an incredible conversation in the Katz JCC locker room. One of the younger boys asked out loud, “Hey, does anyone know why the security has been so tight here this week?” As the only adult in the room, I was ready to jump in with the answer, but amazingly, I did not need to. A very lively discussion took place about the situation in Israel, with the whole locker room getting involved. For me, this might have been the highlight of the Maccabi week.
I’ve known that our Federation has funded the Maccabi Games for many years. I now understand why.