Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

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. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Features World Graves of Jewish Pirates in Jamaica Give Caribbean Tourists Taste of Little-Known History

    Graves of Jewish Pirates in Jamaica Give Caribbean Tourists Taste of Little-Known History

    Tour operators are calling attention to Jamaica’s little-known Jewish heritage by arranging visits to historic Jewish sites on the Caribbean island, including a cemetery where Jewish pirates are buried. A report in Travel and Leisure magazine describes the Hunts Bay Cemetery in Kingston, where there are seven tombstones engraved with Hebrew benedictions and skull and crossbones insignia. According to the report, centuries ago, Jewish pirates sailed the waters of Jamaica and settled in Port Royal. The town, once known as “the wickedest city in the […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Filmmaker Eyal Resh Embraces the Challenge of Telling Israel’s Story (VIDEO)

    Filmmaker Eyal Resh Embraces the Challenge of Telling Israel’s Story (VIDEO)

    JNS.org – Telling Israel’s story. It’s the specific title of a short film that Eyal Resh created last year. It’s also the theme behind the 27-year-old Israeli filmmaker’s broader body of work. The widely viewed “Telling Israel’s Story” film—directed by Resh for a gala event hosted by the Times of Israel online news outlet—seemingly begins as a promotional tourism video, but quickly evolves to offer a multilayered perspective. “I want to tell you a story about a special place for me,” a young woman whispers […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Israel Geeks Out: Science, Art and Tech Event Embodies Jewish State’s ‘DNA’

    Israel Geeks Out: Science, Art and Tech Event Embodies Jewish State’s ‘DNA’

    JNS.org – The entrance to Jerusalem’s Sacher Park was transformed from April 25-27 by a fire-breathing robotic dragon, which flailed its arms and attempted to take flight. The robot, a signature feature at Jerusalem’s first-ever “Geek Picnic,” was one of more than 150 scientific amusements available for the public to experience. This particular dragon was designed by students from Moscow’s Art Industrial Institute in conjunction with the Flacon design factory, said Anatasia Shaminer, a student who helped facilitate the display. Children […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Opinion The Syrian Virgin (REVIEW)

    The Syrian Virgin (REVIEW)

    The Syrian Virgin, by Zack Love. CreateSpace, 2015. The Syrian Virgin, by Zack Love, is a very interesting novel. Equally a political and romantic thriller, at times a real page-turner, it gets you intimately involved in the dire situation in today’s Syria, as well as in the romantic entanglements of its mostly New York-based characters — whose entanglements just might determine the fate of that dire situation in Syria. Along the way it introduces a really important idea that somehow […]

    Read more →
  • Features Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    JNS.org – Aside from Israel itself, those with a vested interest in the Jewish state are accustomed to tracking developments related to Middle East players such as Iran, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. But much global attention has recently focused on the Caucasus region at the Europe-Asia border, specifically on the suddenly intensified violence between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh area of western Azerbaijan. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, while not taking place in Israel’s immediate neighborhood, does have what one scholar called […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    JNS.org – On Friday, April 22, 196 nations across the world mark Earth Day, the annual day dedicated to environmental protection that was enacted in 1970. Not to be forgotten on this day is Israel, which is known as the “start-up nation” for its disproportionate amount of technological innovation, including in the area of protecting the environment. For Earth Day 2016, JNS.org presents a sampling of the Jewish state’s internal achievements and global contributions in the environmental realm. Water conservation Israeli […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture World New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    Holocaust humor and the role that laughter played in the lives of Jews during World War II are the focus of a documentary that made its world premiere on Monday at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. In The Last Laugh, first- and second-generation survivors, as well as famous Jewish and non-Jewish comedians, discuss their thoughts on when joking about the death camps is appropriate or taboo. “Nazi humor, that’s OK. Holocaust humor, no,” Jewish comedic giant, actor and filmmaker Mel Brooks says in the film. “Anything I […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    JNS.org – Sherri Mandell’s life was devastated on May 8, 2001, when her 13-year-old son Koby was murdered by terrorists on the outskirts of the Israeli Jewish community of Tekoa. Yet Mandell not only shares the story of her loss, but also celebrates the lessons she has learned from tragedy. Indeed, “celebrate” is this Israeli-American author’s word choice. Her second book, The Road to Resilience: From Chaos to Celebration (Toby Press), came out earlier this year. The lesson: in every celebration, there is […]

    Read more →