While many in Scarsdale are plastered to their televisions watching the Olympics in London, 82 local athletes are participating in the 2012 JCC Maccabi games in Memphis, Houston and Rockland. This is the 30th year of the games, which is the largest gathering of Jewish teens in North America. Almost 3,500 Jewish teens from all over the U.S., Canada, Israel, Mexico, Panama, Venezuela, and Great Britain will share in the fun of competing and the pride of being part of a world-famous Olympic-style event filled with Jewish content and values.
The three locations and dates are as follows:
- Houston, Texas (August 5-10)
- Memphis, Tennessee (August 5-10)
- Rockland County, New York (August 12-17)
This summer, the JCC of Mid-Westchester is sending athletes who will participate in boys soccer, girls soccer, boys basketball, girls basketball, baseball, golf, in-line hockey, table tennis, track and field, and tennis.
Scarsdale’s Harrison Wirth and Jacob Stein have traveled to Houston to play baseball on the 16U JCC Mid-Westchester Maccabi team. They will both be sophomores at Scarsdale High School in September and play baseball on the school team. At the games, Harrison is playing shortstop and Jacob is one of the pitchers. So far, the team has had three wins and two losses and will move on to the semi-finals on Thursday, August 9. According to the boys, the weather has been very, very hot, and the competition has been “mostly good.”
And what about the experience of participating in this international event? Harrison says he has met kids from all over the world, including Israel, Mexico, Panama and Canada. Jacob says, “It's a fun experience because you get to meet new people and play baseball." Also, both boys think the team uniforms are “really nice.”
The boys are living with host family Henry and Tracy Jakob of Sugarland, Texas who took them to an Astro’s game. The food is not very different from what they eat at home as the Maccabi Games is serving the athletes kosher fare.
The JCC Maccabi Games can be called the Olympics for Jewish teens, but they serve a larger purpose than athletic competition. The Games also promote community involvement, teamwork, and pride in being Jewish. For example, athletes visiting host communities stay with local Jewish families. This "home hospitality" is vital to the experience, representing the extended Jewish family and the value of welcoming the stranger.
Also, every set of Games has a volunteer program called JCC Cares, where teens join with local community organizations to work on social-action projects. Past activities have included building homes for the poor, holding carnivals for handicapped children, cleaning parks, and packaging food to be given to the hungry. The purpose is to teach tikkun olam (repairing the world) by example, so that these young people incorporate these values into their daily lives once they return home.