JCC Maccabi Games has a long history, with over 1,000 mentions in the JN since the 1980s.

They’re back! The JCC Maccabi Games will be held in Detroit Aug. 4-9. This will be the sixth time the games have been held here. It is a record our community can be proud of — the games have been held in Detroit more often than in any other American city.

So, I figured this fact, and the nature of the games themselves — you likely know what I am about to say — warranted a cruise into the William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History to see what I could find on the history of the games in the past pages of the JN.

The JCC Maccabi Games (or the “U.S. Maccabi Youth Games” or the “North American Maccabi Youth Games”), have been mentioned in the JN more than 1,000 times since the games began in Memphis, Tenn., in 1982. The second games were held in Detroit in 1984 and, five years later, the annual games grew large enough to be held in multiple cities at the same time. This year, they will be held in Atlanta and Detroit.

A point of interest per Mort Plotnick: The games held in Detroit in 1990 were highly influential and set the standard for subsequent JCC Maccabi Games. Plotnick is a former JCC executive director; he has been handling fundraising/development for years for the games. An article in the Aug. 17, 1992, issue of the JN supports his thesis, reporting that Baltimore, in preparation for the games that year, “was taking a close look at the games in Detroit.”

What the games were called and where they were played may have changed over the years, but the main purpose for the event has not. The games present an opportunity for young Jewish teens to compete against their cohorts and offer a chance for these young athletes to strengthen their ties to their local, national and international Jewish communities.

After reading many of the articles in the JN regarding the games, I found it easy to see they were and are an event that involves a large portion of Detroit’s Jewish community. The pages of the JN are filled with good wishes, ranging from David Wachler & Sons Jewelers and Reid Glass and Plastics to Marty’s Groom-O-Pet and Best Bakery. Community leaders such as Bill Davidson, David Hermelin, Bob Sosnick, Bob Aronson and Herman Frankel have also been keen supporters.

But, let us not forget the essence of the games: the young athletes. You can’t have games without the players. And these players come from North America and from around the world. Indeed, in 1998, for example, the parade of athletes was led across the floor of the Palace of Auburn Hills by the delegation from Israel.

Maybe you know some of the athletes or coaches from Detroit? Or maybe you were one of the athletes? The pages of the JN are filled with information regarding the rosters from Detroit who attended the JCC Maccabi Games. For example, Marc Edelstein was a shot-putter; Jenny Weine was a sprinter; and Nichole Rudolph played softball in the 1986 Maccabi games. That year, Karen Sklar coached the girl’s baseball team and Herb Bernstein led the swimming team. Unfortunately, there is no room to name all the athletes past and present. It would take most, if not all, of this week’s issue of the JN. The editors here just would not let me take over the entire issue.

So, let us end by wishing all of this year’s participants the best of luck in the 2019 JCC Maccabi Games. Go team! Go Detroit!

Want to learn more? Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available for free at www.djnfoundation.org.

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