Participants in the JCC Maccabi Games & ArtsFest in Detroit in 2019 filled a blank wall at the closing party with thoughts on what Maccabi means to them.
Participants in the JCC Maccabi Games & ArtsFest in Detroit in 2019 filled a blank wall at the closing party with thoughts on what Maccabi means to them. (Karen Gordon)

In addition to the sports competitions, there will be a Maccabi Games experience of social events, hang time and JCC Cares community service work in Texas.

There will be a JCC Maccabi Games in 2021.

It won’t look like a traditional Maccabi Games, and the event was organized far more quickly than normal. 

But nobody is complaining after the Maccabi Games were canceled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it appeared the same thing would happen in 2021.

Here’s the best news for local Jewish teens: Detroit athletes have been invited to participate in the 2021 Maccabi Games.

Barshop JCC of San Antonio, Texas, is hosting the Texas JCC Maccabi Regional Games from Aug. 8-10.

The JCC Association of North America opened the event in mid-June to athletes from across the country because there’s room, COVID restrictions have eased and vaccinations for teens have become more available.

Maccabi logo

Detroit Maccabi delegation heads Karen Gordon and Franci Silver are scrambling to get the word out about the Texas Maccabi Games to prospective Detroit athletes, sending emails to past Detroit Maccabi athletes and posting information on Facebook.

Gordon said about six prospective Detroit Maccabi athletes responded initially. Those interested should send her an email as soon as possible at karengordon44@icloud.com.

For Gordon, who has been involved in the Maccabi Games in multiple capacities since 1986, news that Detroit athletes could participate in the Texas Maccabi Games was a very pleasant surprise.

“It was super last-minute, but I’ll be thrilled if only one kid from Detroit gets to have a Maccabi experience,” Gordon said.

“At least something is happening this summer. The Maccabi Games are still in people’s minds. It’s still relevant; it’s still happening.”

About 100-150 athletes are expected to participate in the Texas Maccabi Games. The athletes won’t stay with host families. They’ll spend two nights in the same hotel.

Five sports are offered. They are tennis, golf, swimming, 3 vs. 3 soccer and 3 vs. 3 basketball.

Soccer and basketball teams from different delegations will be put together if needed. Those are the sports that need the most athletes.

Maccabi Experience

In addition to the sports competitions, there will be a Maccabi Games experience of social events, hang time and JCC Cares community service work in Texas.

“This will be more of a Maccabi Games experience than sports competitions because of the limited number of sports, but that’s fine because the experience is a very important part of the Maccabi Games,” Gordon said.

Out-of-town athletes must pay for their transportation to San Antonio and hotel stay, which is about $150 per room per night. Each room can have up to three people.

The JCC Association of North America will cover uniforms and other ground costs.

Neither Gordon nor Silver can attend the Texas Maccabi Games because of family commitments, but Gordon said arrangements are being made for Detroit to have a delegation head.

“Franci and I will take care of all the logistics on our local end,” Gordon said.

This is not the first time San Antonio has hosted a Maccabi Games. It also was a host in 2005 and 2009.

Having a regional Maccabi Games is a throwback to the early days of the annual Olympic-style competition for Jewish teens ages 13-16 that has grown to feature large sites and athletes from across the world.

The Texas Maccabi Games also may be a harbinger of things to come against the backdrop of a worldwide pandemic. And perhaps a positive development, Gordon said.

“If we go back to having regional events, maybe more JCC’s can get hosting experience,” Gordon said. “Toledo or Akron could host a couple hundred kids, or Columbus can host 500 or 600.

“Not everyone can commit to hosting 2,500 kids.”

The Maccabi Games began in 1982 when Memphis, Tenn., was the lone site. There were multiple sites annually starting in 1989.

Last year’s cancellation was the first ever. San Diego, Calif., and Pace University in Westchester, N.Y., were supposed to be the hosts in August 2020. About 70-75 Detroit athletes and artists were expected to participate last year in the Maccabi Games and ArtsFest.

The cancellation was disappointing, but not unexpected.

“Am I surprised? Not at all,” Gordon told the Jewish News after the JCC Association of North America announced the cancellation March 25, 2020, in an email to delegation heads and asked the delegation heads to relay the word to their communities.

“There’s so much uncertainty in the world right now, and many JCC’s are closed,” Gordon said after the cancellation announcement. “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.”

Detroit has hosted the Maccabi Games six times since 1984 — when it was the only site — and most recently in 2019, when Atlanta also hosted.

No community has hosted the Maccabi Games more often than Detroit. 

Please send sports news to stevestein502004@yahoo.com.

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