Enormous undertaking pays off in an event to remember

Randi Dodick Fields

Howard Fine

As co-chairs of the JCC Maccabi Games, Randi Fields and Howard Fine volunteered for quite possibly the most time-consuming position in the complex web of committees and subcommittees tasked with organizing the weeklong event in San Francisco. 

Fields, who serves on the JCCSF’s board of directors, and Fine, who is vice president of the board, have been working tirelessly to integrate some 15 committees — from transportation to housing to security — into a coherent whole.

Now, three years and a thousand details later, the pair is about to see the fruits of those efforts.

j.: How did you prepare for your role as co-chair?

Fine: I have two sons who played in the games. Abe played in Miami and Baltimore, and then played baseball for the U.S. in the 2005 Maccabiah Games. Our younger son, Zeke, played in the Stamford, Conn. games.

Fields: It’s an enormous undertaking, and as part of my preparation for my role, I visited three sets of games. I watched 1,700 kids in Phoenix three years ago, went to Houston the year after that and joined 20 of our committee chairs in San Diego last year. I have three sets of games under my belt, in terms of observation.

j.: How did the games in Phoenix, Houston and San Diego differ from those in San Francisco?

Fields: We have some major challenges in terms of logistics. This is the first set of urban games — the games we visited were in more suburban areas, even in San Diego.

There are constraints in terms of space, but that can also serve to our benefit. In the Phoenix area, the distances were great. Our distances are fairly close, but our space is compact. When you have 1,500 athletes from 43 cities and four foreign countries (Israel, Great Britain, Guatemala and Mexico), that’s a lot of bags to move and unload. 

j.: Is there even a way to put the logistical aspect of the games into words?

Fine: Clearly, there are an infinite number of details. But every time you think you have something nailed down, something changes somewhere else. This causes you to revisit what you’ve nailed down before. It has a ripple effect that changes the whole schematic. 

Fields: Organizing the games is a daunting task. That being said, it’s a real lay-led effort. I am the co-chair, and there are 43 committee chairs. We have 15 overall committees, then subcommittees. Let’s just say I’ve been in a lot of meetings.

j.: Tell me about the relationships you developed along the way with non-Jewish organizations.

Fine: We made our bid to the JCC Association three years ago, but not before we met with Fr. Stephen Privett at USF. He agreed to open the doors of his university to serve as our hub. We also met with Mayor Newsom’s office to obtain support for use of the city’s fields. Without the support of USF and the city, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to hold these games.

Fields: An event of this magnitude takes a lot of coordination. We’re also partnering with the Oakland and San Francisco police departments. The outreach effort has been extensive, and those relationships, among others, will be one of the legacies of these games.

j.: Surely you haven’t slept much since the planning stages began. Has all your hard work paid off? 

Fine: I’ll be sad when Aug. 8 rolls around. I have no doubt we’ll have bumps along the road, and there will be some screw-ups. But I have every confidence that the kids will have a great time.

Fields: I am enormously proud. We are creating something that’s really special for San Francisco, for the Jewish community and for more than 1,000 Jewish teens around the world.