Detroit athletes will join forces with athletes from other communities to create teams.
The JCC Maccabi Games are back.
Or, perhaps more appropriately, starting again 40 years after they began.
After an unprecedented two-year hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual Olympic-style sports, cultural and social event for Jewish teens ages 13-16 will return this summer in San Diego.
It appears 22 Detroit athletes will attend, perhaps a few more, a steep drop in attendance from previous years.
There aren’t enough Detroit athletes to form a team in any team sport. Detroit athletes will join forces with athletes from other communities to create teams.
These facts create a mixed bag of emotions for Karen Gordon, a Detroit Maccabi delegation head since 1999.
“I’m excited the Maccabi Games will be held for the first time since we (Detroit) were a host in 2019. It’s a sign that all is right with the world. It gives us a sense of normalcy,” she said.
“But I’m disappointed, of course, that we don’t have more athletes going.
“When it was announced last summer that San Diego would be hosting the Maccabi Games in 2022, I said at the time that we’d have kids coming out of the woodwork, or we’d have a hard time fielding teams. It’s the latter.”
Gordon pointed to several reasons for Detroit’s small turnout.
“Unfortunately, we’re not done with COVID,” she said.
“Also, there isn’t a ‘last year’ or ‘year before’ for kids to talk about their Maccabi Games experiences with their family and friends. We’ve lost a generation of kids. We’re starting over.”
Gordon said it’s also possible that families had a choice between sending their children to summer camp or the Maccabi Games and chose camp if they had a good experience last year.
The JCC Association of North America, which organizes and conducts the Maccabi Games, has decreed that all Maccabi Games participants in San Diego — athletes, coaches, organizers and staff — must be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Also, members of host families who can be vaccinated must be vaccinated.
“We lost a couple kids because of the vaccination mandate,” Gordon said.
Detroit has had more than 100 teens travel to Maccabi Games sites in recent years. ArtsFest joined the Maccabi Games offerings in 2006.
Perhaps the high-water mark in recent attendance for the Detroit Maccabi delegation was in 2006, when 90 teens went to Vancouver on a charter plane, and another 30 went to Phoenix.
“It’s the only time we’ve used a charter plane,” Gordon said.
Three years later, 96 Detroit teens went to Mid-Westchester (New York), 21 went to San Francisco and 10 went to San Antonio.
In 2011, 31 Detroit teens went to Israel, 42 went to Philadelphia and 26 went to Springfield, Massachusetts.
In the two years prior to Detroit being a Maccabi Games host in 2019, 59 Detroit teens went to Miami in 2017 and 58 went to Orange County (California) in 2018.
About 70 to 75 Detroit athletes and artists were expected to participate in the 2020 Maccabi Games before they were canceled by the JCC Association in March 2020, shortly after the start of the pandemic.
The 2020 Maccabi Games sites were Pace University in Westchester, New York, and San Diego. No sites were announced last year.
Here’s a breakdown by sport of Detroit’s 22 athletes for the 2022 Maccabi Games, which will be held July 31 through Aug. 5, hosted by the Lawrence Family JCC.
5 — 14U baseball
4 — Ice hockey
3 — Girls soccer, tennis
2 — Girls basketball, swimming
1 — 14U boys basketball, 14U boys soccer, dance
Tennis, swimming and dance are individual sports.
Detroit athletes also can compete on 16U baseball and 16U boys basketball teams.
There will not be an ArtsFest in San Diego to reduce the number of participants.
Gordon said about 70% of the Detroit athletes going to San Diego are age 13 or 14, which means they have three or two more years of Maccabi Games eligibility.
Prospective Detroit athletes for this summer’s Maccabi Games can contact Gordon at firstname.lastname@example.org for information about registration, scholarship opportunities and travel.
There also is information at www.maccabidetroit.com.
Gordon also is recruiting additional leadership for Detroit Maccabi. Those interested can send her an email.
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