Courtesy of Debbie Spizizen

August events in California and New York are canceled by the JCC Association of North America.

Summer will be a bummer for thousands of Jewish teens.

The 2020 JCC Maccabi Games & ArtFest was canceled this week because of coronavirus concerns.

The JCC Association of North America announced the cancelation Wednesday, March 25, in an email to delegation heads and asked the delegation heads to relay the word to their communities.

This is the first time since the Maccabi Games began in 1982 that the annual Olympic-style event for Jewish youths across the world has been called off.

This year’s hosts were San Diego, Calif. (Aug. 2-7) and Pace University in Westchester, N.Y. (Aug. 9-14).

“We deeply regret that circumstances beyond our control have made such a decision necessary,” wrote JCC Association Vice President Samantha Cohen in the email to delegation heads.

“Although it may seem that August is many months away, in balancing the interests and needs of our host communities, JCCs and delegations, it’s important that we make the decision at this time,” Cohen wrote.

“We’re heartbroken for everyone involved — from the host communities and delegation heads to the parents, coaches and volunteers, but most of all for the thousands of teens who, for months, have been planning and anticipating ‘their’ JCC Maccabi Gams experience.”

Karen Gordon was disappointed, but not surprised by the JCC Association’s decision.

“Am I surprised? Not at all,” said the longtime Detroit Maccabi coach and delegation head.

“There’s so much uncertainty in the world right now and many JCCs are closed,” Gordon said. “It takes a lot of work to put on the Maccabi Games, and this is an important time of the year for planning and preparation.”

About 70 to 75 Detroit athletes and artists were expected to participate in this year’s Maccabi Games.

While the majority of the Detroit teens had signed up and their fees had been paid, a few more probably would have been added to the roster, Gordon said.

Nicole Spizizen was looking forward to her fourth and final year as a member of the Detroit Maccabi competitive dance team.

The 16-year-old Detroit Country Day School sophomore from West Bloomfield won a medal in each of her competitions during Maccabi Games in Miami, Fla. (2017), Orange County, Calif. (2018) and Detroit (2019).

She was supposed to go to Pace University this year.

“My dad (Kevin) told me about the cancelation at dinner Wednesday,” Nicole said.

“I’m sad because this was my last year to participate in the Maccabi Games and I won’t have another opportunity to do it,” she said. “But I understand why the decision was made to cancel it.”

In addition to winning medals at the Maccabi Games, Nicole said she’s enjoyed meeting other Jewish competitive dancers from across the country. Several have become her friends.

Nicole’s brother Ian, 25, and sister Jacqueline, 21, also were Detroit Maccabi athletes. All three siblings competed in Detroit and their family was a host each of those years.

“I feel so sad for all the kids who were going to the Maccabi Games this year, but I understand why the decision was made to cancel the Maccabi Games and I’m sure the kids do, too,” said Debbie Spizizen, Nicole’s mother.

“I commend those who made the decision. It was a tough decision, but it was a decision that had to be made.”

Debbie said if the Maccabi Games was held this year and her daughter stayed in a dorm at Pace University as was the plan, she would have been concerned.

“If someone is sick in a dorm, the illness can spread quickly,” she said. “Plus, there’s a big difference between getting sick when you’re staying with a host family and getting sick when you’re in a dorm.”

The Spizizen family’s connection to the Maccabi Games dates to 2008.

Ian played baseball for Detroit in 2008 when the Maccabi Games were held here and he played basketball for Detroit in 2009 in Westchester, N.Y.

Jacqueline played softball for host Detroit in 2014 and in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., in 2015.

“Our Maccabi softball team won the gold medal both years that Jacqueline was on the team. Jacqueline is still friends with the girls on the team and we’re still friends with the parents,” Debbie said.

Ft. Lauderdale will be a Maccabi Games host in 2021. Gordon said it isn’t known if San Diego or Pace University can be host next year.

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