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Macca-which? A Primer on the Games

May 1, 2013
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A Philly girl's basketball squad competing in the Maccabi games. Photo by Sergio Rojstaczer

Keeping the various Maccabi Games straight isn’t always easy. There are local, national and international versions.

  • The World Maccabiah Games, often billed as the Jewish Olympics, began in 1932, and bring delegations from nations around the globe to compete in Israel. Apart from a 12-year interruption between 1938 and 1950, the competition has been held every four years. The 19th games are happening this year from July 18-30. The United States is sending 1,140 athletes, coaches and managers to compete in 33 sports ranging from swimming and track and field to more unusual sports like futsal, a variation of soccer popular in Europe, and rugby sevens, which, as it sounds, is a version of rugby. In addition to athletics, participants, ranging from teenagers to older adults, tour the country and engage in volunteer projects.
  • Maccabi USA Sports for Israel, which organizes the American delegation to the World Maccabiah Games, also sends a team every four years to the Pan American Maccabi Games, which are held in Latin America. The next games will take place in 2015.
  • The JCC Maccabi Games, which happen annually in North America and feature teams representing a city, rather than a country, were founded in 1982. They are taking place this year from July 28 to Aug. 2 in Austin, Texas, and from Aug. 4-9 in Orange County, Calif. Philadelphia is sending roughly 120 teen athletes, ages 13-16, to Orange County and 40 to Austin.
  • The JCC Mid-Atlantic Junior Maccabi Games, taking place at the Kaiserman JCC in Wynnewood on May 5, were started here back in 2000 for kids ages 10-12. Since then the annual contests have alternated among Wynnewood, Cherry Hill, N.J., Harrisburg, Pa., and Wilmington, Del.

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