It may not be London but 150 local Jewish youth are heading to destinations around the country next week to compete in their own version of the Olympics — the JCC Maccabi Games.
The sporting competition, for Jewish teens ages 13 to 16, are held in North America each summer. Last summer, Philadelphia hosted thousands of teens from around the country and the world.
Next week, athletes representing Team Philadelphia in a variety of sports will be competing in Houston and Memphis. Later in the month, another delegation will be traveling to Rockland, N.Y.
In addition to competing in soccer, basketball, tennis, swimming, track & field, lacrosse, in-line hockey, baseball, softball and dance, athletes also participate in a community service project called JCC Cares. In this way, athletes are able to "give back" to their host communities.
Team Philadelphia, administered by the Kaiserman JCC in Wynnewood, is one of the largest delegations in the country. During a rigorous tryout process over the winter, athletes from across the Philadelphia area are selected.
"After hosting last year, it is nice to be back on the road again," said Marti Berk, Team Philadelphia assistant delegation head.
"The games are just an excellent experience. Every single athlete in the games is Jewish. That is what makes the games so special and unique. You can do sports anywhere, but for Jewish athletes, the Jewish atmosphere and culture" is very important.
When asked about predictions for this year's success, Berk said: "I don't know, it's hard to tell. Some of the teams' coaches feel very good about their players. Philadelphia usually comes backs with some medals, but it varies year to year, so who knows."
Information on the Games can be found at: www.philly jcc.com/maccabi.