A Day in the Life of a JCC Maccabi Athlete

Editor’s Note: The JCC Maccabi Games are returning to Detroit in 2019 and host families and volunteers are needed. Here is a snapshot of what it was like for one Detroit athlete at his host family’s house in Denver. There will be a kickoff meeting Sunday, Dec. 16 at 2 p.m. at JCC’s Handelman Hall.

It’s 7:30 a.m. and athlete, Brett Rubenfire, is leaving his host family’s house. He is one of the 1,200 participants at the 2010 JCC Maccabi Games and ArtsFest in Denver. He’s anxious, he’s nervous and he’s pumped for his long day ahead of him. This isn’t Brett’s first games, though, he comes from a family who has a long connection to Maccabi.

After arriving to the JCC, Brett met up with friends at the JCC Maccabi Café for breakfast. There he looks over his schedule for the day. He’s on the Detroit’s soccer team this year. “I wasn’t a starter but I came in early and was able to make a big difference and got an assist in my first game.” The competition is very real, “a lot of teams are really serious teams and have played together before and have a lot of chemistry.”

Unfortunately, Brett’s team lost, but he was able to cheer on his friends for the rest of the day. He said, “I love watching the games. I was a huge fan of watching volleyball and, of course, the basketball games because that’s where most of my friends outside of soccer played.” The JCC Maccabi games are spread out at five to six venues. Brett visited four of those venues that day via JCC Maccabi’s shuttle bus. He loved that he was able to bounce around to see how his friends were playing.

Artists and Athletes don’t have to worry about food or snacks their whole time here. “There was food everywhere you turned. You can’t go hungry at (JCC) Maccabi.” There is a dedicated area, called Hangtime, where participants who weren’t scheduled for an activity would hang out, play games, interact with Israeli guests and eat. “If I wasn’t playing, at JCC Cares or watching another game, I’d go eat and chill with my friends in Hangtime. It was a nice vibe!”

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During the day, the participants that aren’t organized to play or perform during various time blocks worked with JCC Cares. This program is a charity portion of the week’s events. In 2010, participants worked with Denver Health and Book Bags for schools in the area. This is a very special part of the Games for many people. Rubenfire understands the impact JCC Cares has on the community. “I did the bag packing project. It felt like I was just packing my own backpack for school and then it hit me that I was helping hundreds of kids who are less fortunate be prepared for school. It felt awesome.”

After hours of games and rehearsals, the artists and athletes get to let loose a bit. Brett lit up discussing their evening event at Dave and Busters. “It was great to be able to relax and have a fun time in the arcade with close friends and people we just met. There were tons of games, food and dancing. When it was all over, our host families picked us up and I was lucky enough that my host family treated me with milkshakes after the event.”

Brett understands that the idea of living with a host family might be a tough one for many people but to him getting to know the different families was one of the key parts to the games. “Living with a host family, at first, I was nervous but they were super awesome. I had an amazing family with an eight and ten year old one year and a wonderful grandmother the next year.”

The days are long at Maccabi, but Brett still had a blast. “My host family thought I was sleep by 11, but I stayed up well past midnight with my roommates. They became my family!”

The connection is not over at the end of the week. Rubenfire made life-long friendships at the JCC Maccabi Games and ArtsFest and now he is on board as the Maccabi Associate for the 2019 Games in Detroit. He cannot wait for the Games and ArtsFest to begin! “My wish for Maccabi Games and ArtsFest is for everyone attending to have an amazing time where each participant can have as much fun as I did.”

The 2019 JCC Maccabi Games and ArtsFest will be in Detroit, in participation from JCC of Greater Ann Arbor, from Aug. 4-9. For more information, go to www.maccabidetroit2019.com. Can’t wait to see you all there! #DetroitIsBack

By Taliah Ausby

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