The countdown clock in the lobby of the Springfield JCC shouts out in bright red lights that the 2011 JCC Maccabi Games are only 3 months away! And the excitement is evident everywhere you walk in the building. Maccabi Central, housed in the Jewish Federation Board Room, is teeming with activity; phone calls, registrations, information – non-stop every day. Maccabi fever is at a boiling point!
It’s time to put it all into perspective. In approximately 90 days, 1,000 teens from all around the United States, Canada, Mexico and Israel and representing 36 distinct communities will descend upon Western Massachusetts for a week of competition, personal enrichment, socializing and mitzvot. All of this will kick off Sunday night, August 14, at the Mass Mutual Center in a dazzling array of lights and music as, Olympic-style, the athletes march into the arena to display their delegation colors and inaugurate the event.
The thrill and the impact of the JCC Maccabi Games are profound. Ask anyone who was a part of the effort when the JCC Maccabi Games first came to Springfield in 2002. “When our JCC decided to host the 2002 JCC Maccabi Games for the first time ever, we were ecstatic,” say Chris and Howard Hausman, co-chairs of the 2002 event. “It was a privilege when we were asked to chair this event that we felt so strongly about! We wanted our community, especially all the young families and teens, to feel the sense of excitement and Jewish pride that we felt. In the end, the numerous hours of volunteer time spent on this project was worth every second and we felt we accomplished our goal with the help of so many. It remains as the biggest and most worthwhile volunteer effort of our lifetime.”
Past participants have the same sense of excitement when they reflect about their time in the JCC Maccabi Games. Sarah Klein had this to say, “I have four favorite summers, ones that I clearly remember out of my seventeen years of tangled camp memories, and they are the four that I spent playing tennis, going to dances, and just goofing off with kids from all over the country at the JCC Maccabi Games.”
But, surprisingly, the JCC Maccabi experience can actually be a family affair. Of course the teens go their way and the parents go the other, but at the end of the week all will have felt and enjoyed the very same sense of spirit, excitement and camaraderie. “Our son, Evan, participated in the Maccabi games beginning with the games in Springfield,” say the Belisle family of Longmeadow. “It was a wonderful experience for him and he went on to attend games in other cities until he ‘aged out’. Evan enjoyed the Maccabi experience so much he wrote his college essay about it. As a family, we all enjoyed being a part of the games when they were held in Springfield. We hosted two boys from New York and had a fun time making them a part of our ‘family’ for the week. Our younger son, Ethan cannot wait to be old enough to attend! We are looking forward to being involved in 2011.”
And, perhaps the biggest bonus of the JCC Maccabi Games is what it does for the community in general. In 2002, for as relatively small a Jewish community as we share, the event still managed to bring together people who had lost touch with one another. Old friendships refueled… new friendships born. But, above all, the Jewish community came together in a manner that has never been matched by any other event. Maccabi doesn’t take from the community…it builds community.
Make sure that you have August 14-19 on your calendar and be a part of something that doesn’t come by here very often. You can be a host family, a volunteer or just a spectator… but be involved. We are seeking host families and volunteers from throughout the Pioneer Valley, including the Upper Valley. Special transportation arrangements will be made to accommodate the Northampton/Amherst area. It’s going to be a summer to remember in the Pioneer Valley Jewish community!
For more information or to register, go to www.SpringfieldJCCMaccabi.org or call Maccabi Central at 413-739-4715.