THE MERAGE JEWISH Community Center of Orange County is proud to host the 2018 JCC Maccabi Games and ArtsFest from August 5-10, 2018. The JCC Maccabi Games, an Olympic-style sporting competition held annually, is the largest annual Jewish youth event in the world.
A powerful and transforming experience for Jewish teens, the JCC Maccabi Games are dramatic in their scale and unique in their ability to integrate sports and arts with Jewish identity and values, while strengthening bonds to Jewish heritage, community and Israel.
Dan Bernstein, Merage JCC President/CEO is the first person to lead eight Maccabi Games: “Maccabi is life-changing for many, many Jewish teens. Connecting with so many peers from throughout the world, puts Judaism and community into perspective. It is an experience kids do not forget. It is one of the most effective means to connecting Jewish teens to each other and to the Jewish community.”
Meskie Taylor, a two-time Maccabi Games athlete, shares “The Maccabi Games were amazing. In addition to the fun, the experience built pride, confidence and Jewish identity. It bonded me to Jews from my team, from around the U.S. and from faraway places I’ve never even heard of.”
Since their inception in 1982, the Games have grown from a small pilot project with 300 participants, to a four-day long festival-like event held each summer in multiple sites throughout North America. 2018 will be the third time the Merage JCC hosts the Games. Hosting the Games truly galvanized our local Jewish community. In both 2007 and 2013, over 3,000 teens participated from around the world, thousands of volunteers and host Jewish families dedicated tremendous energy to the success of the Games, and over 100 sponsors invested in the events,
Next summer, the Merage expects over 1,500 Jewish teenagers from all over United States and Canada, with teams joining from South America, Europe and Israel as well. The teams will join together in an array of sports, arts, Shabbat dinners and meals, Hang Time—informal fun such as Jewish trivia games and Israeli dance—and evening social activities held at venues throughout Orange County. Our own Team OC delegation is expected to include 300 teens from Orange County.
A staple of the event is JCC Cares, teens spend time performing tikkun olam or “repairing the world,” taking a few hours out of their competition and play schedules to participate in community service.
In addition, the Games honor and remember the Munich 11 athletes by memorializing their lives at the opening Ceremony. Over 15,000 teens, community members and guests, promise to never forget the past, including the athletes and coaches who were killed by terrorists at the 1972 Olympics, and honor their memories in prose and spirit throughout the Games.
JCC Maccabi Games alumni include local Olympian swimmers Janet Evans and Jason Lezak. In addition, Ethan Zohn, famous for winning television’s third season of “Survivor”; Brett Loewenstern, “American Idol” contestant; and also Jason Segel, the well-known film and television actor.
The OC JCC Maccabi Games and ArtsFest will help us strengthen our community and position it for the future. Volunteers, host families, donors and sponsors will be needed to ensure the success of the Games and ArtsFest, and everyone will be enriched by their involvement.
Managing the Games is an enormous endeavor, requiring the recruitment of over a thousand volunteers, as well as significant sponsors. Maccabi Games & ArtsFest co-chairs, Hal Altman, Adrienne Matros, and Dana Susson think it is worth it. The impact on thousands of Jewish teens – locally, nationally, and globally, is invaluable. The memories will be cherished, by the artists, athletes and coaches, as well as their families and friends, for years to come. The sheer numbers of attendees, highlighting the extent and strength of the Jewish community, are eye-opening. The Games result in our teens forming a stronger connection to Jewish Peoplehood, laying an essential foundation for them to develop into future Jewish leaders. More than that, the widespread collaboration among all sectors of the Orange County Jewish population – all ages, levels of religious observance, and geographic location –provides our community with a new sense of unity and peoplehood.