Maccabi teen athletes to compete in spirit of community

Bailey Roos shows her 2014 medal. photo/ojfcc

Delegations from five Bay Area JCCs are about to head to Wisconsin, Florida and Texas for the JCC Maccabi Games, large sports competitions for Jewish teenagers held every summer in North America.

“The whole idea of Maccabi is you’re there in an incredibly supportive community,” said Daniel Malament, director of marketing for youth and teen programs at the JCC of the East Bay.

As delegation head, Malament will accompany 39 teenagers to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to compete in baseball, basketball, soccer, tennis, swimming and table tennis in the games Aug. 9-14.

The Addison-Penzak JCC in Los Gatos will send 10 athletes to the games in Milwaukee, and the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto and Peninsula JCC in Foster City each will send 11 athletes to the games in Dallas. The Milwaukee and Dallas games will be held simultaneously, Aug. 2-7.

With 61 athletes, the JCC of San Francisco is going to double down, sending some to Dallas and some to Fort Lauderdale.

At 2014 JCC Maccabi Games, the boys’ basketball team from JCC of San Francisco poses in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and members of JCC East Bay soccer team show camaraderie. photo/jason minick

This is the 33rd year of the JCC Maccabi Games, which bring together Jewish teens, ages 13 to 16. Most are from the United States and Canada, but teams from other countries also participate. Though under the Maccabi umbrella, these games differ from the European Maccabi Games, which are taking place now in Germany, and the Maccabiah Games (the “Jewish Olympics”), which are held every four years in Israel; those competitions do include teens but are geared toward older, higher-level athletes.

The Florida JCC Maccabi Games will attract about 1,200 teen competitors, Malament said, creating an impromptu and unique Jewish community for the duration of the competition.

“Kids come from Israel, Australia, Great Britain and Mexico,” Malament. “It exposes them to the diaspora of people all across the world and all across the country.”

Athletes stay with host families during the games, and if a JCC doesn’t have enough athletes to support an entire team in a given sport, they are able to create a joint team with players from other locations.

photo/jcc east bay-daniel malament

Five volunteer coaches will accompany the East Bay competitors. Baseball coach David Sibony, 20, who competed as a teenager, is returning for his second year as a coach. After he aged out of playing in the games, but before he was old enough to be an official coach, he paid his own way to accompany the delegation as an unofficial coach.

Malament said that while some participants in the Maccabi Games have had bar and bat mitzvahs or come from observant families, others don’t have as much outside experience in organized Jewish life.

“It really gives them a sense of Judaism that they maybe haven’t had before,” Malament said.

Drew Himmelstein
Drew Himmelstein

Drew Himmelstein is a former J. reporter who writes about education, families and Jewish life. She lives with her husband and two sons.