On Aug. 10, a twirling spotlight shone on the 85-man JCC Chicago
Maccabi team that waved the blue-striped and red-starred Chicago flag above
their heads as they marched onto the floors of the opening ceremony in Cherry
Hill, N.J. The annual JCC Maccabi Games, inaugurated in 1982, is the largest
Jewish teen event in the world.
This year, it brought over 6,000
participants to three different venues-Cherry Hill, Boca Raton, and Detroit-to
compete in "Olympic-style" events and, perhaps more importantly, cultivate a
deeper understanding of Jewish values of responsibility, teamwork, and
According to the JCC Maccabi Chicago Facebook
page, the competition was used "as a vehicle to instill pride among our athletes
in their Jewish identity while reminding them that the Games connect each of
them to the world's Jewish community including the State of Israel." And for the
participating 13 to 16 year old Chicagoan athletes, Maccabi had much more to
offer than merely games of table tennis and volleyball matches.
American, Canadian, and Israeli communities were represented during the weeklong
competition as members of the JCC Chicago team, among others, thrived in the
carefree and democratic atmosphere. "The diversity appeals to teens and gives
them the sense that they are part of something larger than themselves,"
according to JCC Chicago.
The Chicago competitors, for one, brought home
a slew of medals. Both the 16 & Under and 14 & Under Boys' Basketball
teams grabbed the gold, both squads comfortably outscoring their opposition. The
16 & Under Boys' Soccer and baseball teams stole silver medals as they
celebrated in a jumping huddle. And bringing home the bronze was the Boys'
Lacrosse team and the 16 & Under Girls' Basketball team. The swimmers, too,
collected 35 medals throughout the week.
The JCC Maccabi Chicago Facebook
page flooded with congratulations. "We are so proud," a spectator wrote. "Way to
But the athletes walked away from the closing ceremonies
with something more-kavod, rina, ga'ava, lev tov, and amiut
yehudit (that is, respect, joy, pride, a big heart, and a feeling of unity
with all Jewish communities).
These midot, or core values, were
nurtured in part by the hospitality of local Jewish families who hosted every
athlete for the week. For security reasons, all athletes stayed with host
families-there were over 400 in total!-as opposed to in hotels, allowing them to
enjoy a personal relationship with their hosts.
And though Maccabi was
the largest gathering of its kind, each athlete was able to discover something
about him or herself on a more intimate level-as an individual Jew and as a part
of the Jewish people.
The Jewish Community Center of Chicago (JCC)
is a partner in serving our community and receives support from the Jewish
United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.