Maccabiah Games: Uniting Jews from Near and Far

July 23, 2013 3:09 am 0 comments

Opening night of the 19th Maccabiah Games on Thursday, July 18. Photo: Arsen Ostrovsky / Tazpit News Agency.

Every four years, the Maccabiah Games, the world’s third largest sporting competition (after the Olympics and FIFA), are held in Israel. Also called the “Jewish Olympics,” the games date back to 1932, when they were first held in the British Mandate of Palestine – with 390 Jewish athletes competing from 14 different countries. This year the quadrennial sports competition is hosting 9,000 athletes from 78 countries, some of whom have traveled from the most remote Jewish communities in the world to take part in the historical competition.

Among the 78 delegations, there are 21 nations participating for the first time in the history of the Games, including a tennis player from Mongolia, and athletes from Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Cuba. The Jewish athletes from those respective countries, along with other far away states, were able to compete thanks to two Jewish visionaries: Jeffrey Sudikoff of Los Angeles and Macabi Carasso of Israel.

After attending the 2009 Games, Sudikoff, a venture capitalist, realized that there were a surprising number of countries where Jewish people resided that did not compete in the Games. He went to the Maccabi World Union (the international Jewish sports organization formed in 1921 that organizes the Games) with a proposal to bring Jewish athletes to the games from countries that had never participated. With Sudikoff funding the project, called “Small and Lost Communities,” a 61-year-old Israeli aptly named Macabi Carasso, set out on a mission to recruit Jewish competitors.

Team USA. Photo: Arsen Ostrovsky / Tazpit News Agency.

Carasso, whose family immigrated from Salonika in 1924 and established a successful Israeli automobile-import business, traveled to 18 countries over the past two years looking for athletes.

He visited a number of remote places in Latin America, the Caribbean, and countries of the former Yugoslavia, among others, and discovered areas with tiny Jewish populations.

“What we’re looking for in these communities is not a super-athlete — someone who jumps the highest or is a tennis champion — but to create a link between these communities and the Jewish world,” Carasso told the JTA.

Indeed, the Maccabi World Union is the largest and longest-running Jewish sports organization, spanning over five continents, with more than 60 countries, 450 clubs, and 400,000 members. As a Zionist organization, its primary goal is to utilize sports as a means to bring Jewish people of all ages closer to Judaism and Israel. Its signature event, the Maccabiah Games, highlights the organization’s message of unity and continuity.

That message was certainly highlighted for the 55-member delegation from Cuba, as noted in an article by The New York Times. Although Cuba has no diplomatic relations with Israel, the official delegation of Jewish athletes and coaches were able to visit because of recently relaxed travel restrictions for large groups departing from Havana, according to the Times.

Team Australia. Photo: Arsen Ostrovsky / Tazpit News Agency.

There are approximately 1,500 Jews living in Cuba, and hundreds have immigrated to Israel in the last few years. Rafael Gonzalez, 24, and his sister, Roxana, 25, are competing in archery. The Gonzalez siblings are from Cienfuegos on the Cuban coast, a city of 150,000 whose Jewish population is 25 people.

Others like Andrew Szabo of the West African nation Guinea-Bissau, one of two delegations representing Africa in this year’s Maccabiah, see the games as an ideal way to unite Jews across the world. “I think the Maccabiah is the ultimate form of Jewish unity,” he told the Times. “It’s not a cutthroat competition, but about getting together, the camaraderie.”

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Theater US & Canada New Play Explores the ‘Arrogance’ of American Jews Critical of Israel, Playwright Says

    New Play Explores the ‘Arrogance’ of American Jews Critical of Israel, Playwright Says

    In his new play Mr. Goldberg Goes to Tel Aviv, playwright Oren Safdie tackles an issue that he has a major concern with: the relationship between Israelis and left-leaning Diaspora Jews with their “I know better” critical views. At the heart of the one-act play is Tony, a Jewish and gay Palestinian sympathizer who expresses strong anti-Israel sentiments when the play begins and at one point even sides with a Palestinian terrorist who holds his captive. Tony, who is also an [...]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Hassidic Parody of Taylor Swift Song Apes Long Jewish Holidays (VIDEO)

    Hassidic Parody of Taylor Swift Song Apes Long Jewish Holidays (VIDEO)

    A Jewish comedy troupe released a parody video on Wednesday of Taylor Swift’s hit song Shake It Off in which they joke about taking extensive time off from work for Jewish holidays. “And the goyim gonna stay, stay, stay, stay, stay. And the Jews are gonna pray, pray pray, pray, pray. I’m just gonna take, take, take, take, take. I’m taking off,” goes the chorus for I’m Taking Off. Menachem Weinstein, the video’s lead singer, is the creative director at [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Literature On 75th Anniversary, Looking at the Jewish Influence on Gone With the Wind

    On 75th Anniversary, Looking at the Jewish Influence on Gone With the Wind

    JNS.org – The 75th anniversary of the premiere of “Gone with the Wind” on Dec. 15 presents an opportunity to examine the Jewish influence on one of the most popular films of all time. That influence starts with the American Civil War epic’s famed producer, David O. Selznick. Adjusted for inflation, “Gone with the Wind” remains the highest-grossing movie ever made. It earned the 1939 Academy Award for Best Picture, the same honor another Selznick film, “Rebecca,” garnered in 1940. Selznick [...]

    Read more →
  • Featured Music US & Canada EXCLUSIVE: Matisyahu Provides Most Extensive Analysis Yet of His Religious, Musical Evolution (INTERVIEW)

    EXCLUSIVE: Matisyahu Provides Most Extensive Analysis Yet of His Religious, Musical Evolution (INTERVIEW)

    Matisyahu got candid in an exclusive interview with The Algemeiner on Monday about his religious and musical journey – after shedding his Chassidic skin, yarmulke, long beard and all – from the start of his career in 2005 when he became a reggae superstar with hits King Without a Crown and Jerusalem. The singer-songwriter embarks on his Festival of Light tour this month, an annual Hanukkah event that stops in Montreal, New York, and other cities before ending in San Juan, [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Personalities ‘Sheriff of Mars’ Unveils Endearing Life of Jewish Music Star Hidden in the Fields of France

    ‘Sheriff of Mars’ Unveils Endearing Life of Jewish Music Star Hidden in the Fields of France

    JNS.org – It was an era of steel strings, guitar heroes, and storytellers—high on heroin, rebellious. Outlaw country music, the hallmark of Nashville’s powerful and angry music scene of the 1970s, was the brew of greats such as Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Townes Van Zandt. But there is another, little-known music hero of that era: Daniel Antopolsky. A Jewish lad from Augusta, Ga.—the son of immigrants who settled in the south and ran a hardware store on Main Street—the [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Iranian Actress Replaces Israel’s Gal Gadot for ‘Ben-Hur’ Remake

    Iranian Actress Replaces Israel’s Gal Gadot for ‘Ben-Hur’ Remake

    Iranian actress Nazanin Boniadi replaced Israeli star Gal Gadot as the female lead in the new Ben-Hur remake, Hollywood.com reported on Tuesday. The Homeland actress will play Esther, a slave that Ben-Hur sets free and falls in love with. Gadot quit the movie when it became clear that filming conflicted with her schedule for the Man of Steel sequel. The Israeli actress plays Wonder Woman in the superhero film Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Actor Jack Huston takes on the [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Personalities Biography Sheds New Light on David Ben-Gurion’s Place in Jewish History

    Biography Sheds New Light on David Ben-Gurion’s Place in Jewish History

    JNS.org – There is one sentence in “Ben-Gurion: Father of Modern Israel” that made me sit up in surprise. I thought that I knew the basic facts about how Israel came into being, but while describing what it was like in the days and hours before the state was declared, author Anita Shapira provides one important anecdote I was not aware of. On the 12th of May, the Zionist Executive met to decide what to do. Moshe Sharrett had just returned [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada ‘Death of Klinghoffer’ Actress Compares Met Opera to ‘Schindler’s List’

    ‘Death of Klinghoffer’ Actress Compares Met Opera to ‘Schindler’s List’

    An actress starring in the controversial Met Opera The Death of Klinghoffer defended the show on Tuesday by comparing it to the 1993 Holocaust film Schindler’s List, New York Post reported. “To me, this was like [the movie] Schindler’s List. We make art so people won’t forget,’’ said the actress, who plays a captured passenger in the show and asked not to be identified. The Met Opera focuses on the infamous murder of Lower East Side Jewish resident Leon Klinghoffer, 69. The wheelchair-bound father of [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.