JCC Maccabi Games® Kick Off in Israel July 6
June 30, 2023
In a proud and longstanding partnership and in the continuing celebration of Israel’s 75th anniversary, JCC Association of North America and Maccabi World Union are bringing athletes from around the globe together in Israel at the world’s largest Jewish youth sporting event, beginning on July 6. More than a thousand Jewish teens from 10 countries will kick off the weeklong JCC Maccabi Games®, an Olympic-style sports event that includes opening and closing ceremonies; community service; and social and cultural events.
At the Games’ conclusion, the teens will set off on two weeks of immersive, innovative, and educational travel throughout the country—a dynamic journey designed to strengthen their commitment to Jewish peoplehood and build meaningful connections with Israel’s land, people, history, and cultures. This year marks the return of the Games to Israel for the first time since 2011, and, reflecting the JCC Movement’s deep commitment to the Jewish homeland, participants represent one of the largest and most diverse teen groups visiting the country this summer.
“The JCC Maccabi Games are perhaps the most extraordinary Jewish peoplehood initiative of our time. 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,” says Doron Krakow, president and CEO, JCC Association. “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.”
Substantial support from several organizations is bringing the Games to life, and this year JCC Association raised more than $5 million for JCC Maccabi. Recognizing the unique educational and community-building opportunity, RootOne, which is seeded through a generous grant from The Marcus Foundation and powered by The Jewish Education Project, has provided $2.6 million in funding. RootOne helps connect thousands of Jewish teens to Israel by lowering the financial barrier to participation in immersive summer trips to Israel and investing in the educational quality of those experiences.
Mosaic United, the Samueli Foundation, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, Seed the Dream Foundation, and other individual and anonymous donors also have provided critical support for the Games’ educational components, community service activities, and more. The JCC Movement enjoys a 34-year partnership with The Coca-Cola Company, a longtime and proud sponsor of the JCC Maccabi Games and the longest continental sponsor of the JCC Movement.
“After many years, we are excited to host the JCC Maccabi Games in Israel for only the second time,” says Roey Tshuva, chairman of the Games, “and we hope they will become part of Maccabi World Union’s global movement plan. We offer our thanks to the municipality of Haifa and Maccabi Israel for their partnership in hosting the event and recruiting the Israeli delegation. I am sure the many young athletes from around the world and the members of the Israeli delegation will have a tremendous experience connecting to their Jewish Identity and strengthening their ties to Israel through sport.”
Naor Galili, CEO of Maccabi Israel, notes, “Maccabi Israel is proud to be a partner in the international activities of Maccabi World Union and JCC Association. In addition to the JCC Maccabi Games here in Israel that will include about 300 Israeli athletes, approximately 200 Israeli athletes will represent our country in the Maccabi Pan-American Games in Buenos Aires, Argentina, while 40 athletes will compete for Israel at the JCC Maccabi Games in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, later this summer. Maccabi Israel is honored to be part of the global Maccabi family, and we will continue to participate in all Maccabi events—for the sake of Judaism and the glorification of the state of Israel in the world.
In most years, the JCC Maccabi Games are held in North America and draw delegations from the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, as well as a small number of global delegations. This year, 74 delegations will represent 10 countries on four continents—North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. Among the athletes are teens from Ukraine and other European countries and, for the first time, Morocco, an Abraham Accords country, whose athletes are participating thanks to JCC Association’s partnership with BBYO. These global delegations’ participation is made possible by philanthropic funding supporting Ukraine and the Maccabi Movement’s European countries at the forefront of the refugee crisis. A delegation of “J-Team” athletes ensures that any Jewish teens who wish to participate in JCC Maccabi—whether they’re affiliated with a JCC or not—can do so. Team sports include baseball, basketball, flag football, ice hockey, soccer, and girls’ volleyball. Individual sports include star reporter (sports journalism and social media), swimming, and tennis.
Throughout their three weeks in Israel, Jewish athletes, who reflect a diversity of observance, background, and identity, will compete, live, and travel with each other. For 63 percent of them, participating in JCC Maccabi will mark their first Jewish experience. Following the athletic competitions, JCC Maccabi’s two-week, post-Games journey will curate customized, transformative educational experiences from one end of the country to the other. The travel will be complemented by a robust, pre-trip curriculum that, developed in partnership with The iCenter, a well-recognized educational organization, will look at the diversity of Israel and enable JCC Maccabi teens to explore their individual relationships to Judaism, Israel, and Zionism through the lens of sport. A cohort of specially trained North American JCC Maccabi Education Fellows, many of whom are young professionals who work with teens in JCCs, will deliver the curricular elements of the program; promote a sense of belonging in the global Jewish community; and help the teens reflect as athletes and Jews.
“It is only in partnership with our co-host, Maccabi World Union, and with generous support from our major funders that JCC Association can effectively implement the Games in Israel this summer, and we are extremely grateful for the funding and partnerships that are making the Games possible,” says Samantha Cohen, senior vice president of Program and Talent, JCC Association. “As part of our broader Israel engagement strategy, we worked with RootOne to design learning opportunities that show Israel’s vibrancy, successes, and challenges and connect young Jewish athletes to engaging content that speaks to their love of sports. This experience is also a special way to welcome teens into the Maccabi Movement and strengthen their Jewish identity before many of them head to college.”
The 41st JCC Maccabi Games Opening Ceremony will be live streamed worldwide on July 9 at 7:30 p.m. local time (12:30 p.m. ET). Athletes, coaches, and delegation heads will be celebrated through the music of the internationally celebrated and award winning, Shalva Band, featuring musicians with disabilities, and Mayoumana, a popular interactive performance group. As has been done since the inaugural JCC Maccabi Games more than four decades ago, the victims of the Munich Olympic massacre will be honored and remembered in a moving tribute, and together, the entire stadium will join in singing the anthems of the United States, Canada, and Israel; take the JCC Maccabi oath; and watch as an extraordinary Jewish athlete lights the opening torch to kick off the Games.
JCC Maccabi will continue this summer in North America, Aug. 6–11, hosted in partnership with the David Posnack JCC in Ft. Lauderdale, where an additional 2,000 teens will compete together at the JCC Maccabi Games and Access. Among the 64 delegations from North America and six delegations from countries around the world are 22 athletes who will participate as part of JCC Maccabi Access. Access is a unique program that makes it possible for Jewish athletes with intellectual and developmental disabilities to take part in the Games, instilling a sense of inclusion and positivity in every athlete, their delegations, and the communities they represent.