Karen Gordon
Karen Gordon

Karen Gordon’s summers are busy. This summer will be particularly hectic.

Gordon has been a JCC Maccabi Games & ArtsFest delegation head for Detroit since 1999. She’s in that role again this year for the Detroit delegation that will participate in the Maccabi Games from Aug. 5-10 in Orange County, Calif.

Another responsibility has been added to Gordon’s full plate.

The Farmington Hills resident and Ferndale High School math teacher is the coach for the U.S. girls basketball team that will participate in the inaugural International Maccabi Youth Games from July 23 to Aug. 1 in Israel.

When all is said and done after a full July and August, Gordon will need to add “globetrotter” to her resume.

“I’ll be home for a couple days after I get back from Israel. I’ll do my laundry, pack and get ready to go to California,” Gordon said.

Her quick turnaround will involve more than washing clothes. Gordon also will need to deal with the 10-hour time difference between Israel and California.

“I guess I’ll have to get myself acclimated to California time at the end of my stay in Israel,” Gordon said.

So what is the International Maccabi Youth Games?

It’s an event for female and male Jewish athletes born in 2002, 2003 and 2004 organized by several organizations including Maccabi USA and Maccabi World Union that’s in the spirit of the Maccabiah Games held every four years in Israel.

About 300 teen athletes from the U.S. will be joined by counterparts from Australia, Canada, Great Britain, Israel, South Africa and other countries in team sports including baseball (boys only), basketball, soccer, softball (girls only), volleyball and futsal (boys only). There are no age groups.

U.S. athletes will stay in Haifa. Competitions will be held in and around the city, with the opening ceremony scheduled for July 23 in Haifa.

With only one site offered for the JCC Maccabi Games in 2018 (Orange County), the International Maccabi Youth Games provides a second opportunity this summer for Jewish teens from around the world to compete and mingle.

Athletes who go to Israel also will tour the country and learn about it.

Cost is $4,600 per U.S. athlete, including round-trip transportation from New York.

Gordon said she doesn’t look at the International Maccabi Youth Games as competition for the JCC Maccabi Games. She wouldn’t have accepted the coaching job if she did.

“I live and breathe the JCC Maccabi Games. I’ve done that for years,” she said.

“Having one site this summer has challenges. Orange County can accommodate about 2,000 kids. The last few years, we’ve had about 3,000 kids participate at multiple sites. Plus, that week in August [Aug. 5-10] is not good for some kids because they’re back in school.”

Gordon said she’ll select her basketball team from virtual tryouts that most likely will include videos, and interviews with athletes and coaches. A three-day camp probably will be held in the New York-New Jersey area before the team leaves for Israel.

Gordon is excited about the opportunity to coach in Israel. One reason is her own personal experience involving a dream that never came true.

“When I was 17 in 1989, I was a finalist for the U.S. women’s basketball team for the Maccabiah Games in Israel,” she said. “I didn’t make the cut, but I thought I had a good chance of making it four years later. Unfortunately, women’s basketball was dropped by then.”

A Michigan Jewish Sports Hall of Fame Pillars of Excellence recipient in 2013, Gordon played basketball, volleyball and softball at Farmington Hills Harrison High School and softball and basketball in college.

She’s coached Detroit Maccabi volleyball, softball and basketball teams, was co-chair for the JCC Maccabi Games & ArtsFest held in Detroit in 2014 and was games director when Detroit hosted the event in 2008.

Players interested in trying out for Gordon’s U.S. basketball team can go to maccabiusa.com/2018-international-maccabi-youth games or contact her at or karengordon44@icloud.com or (248) 561-3329.

Tryouts have begun for Detroit teams for the 2018 JCC Maccabi Games. Go to maccabidetroit.com for a schedule.

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