On Sunday, May 6, the first-ever combined Mid-Atlantic Mini and Junior Maccabi Games drew 750 young athletes, 150 coaches, and 200 volunteers from 19 Jewish Community Centers (JCCs) to the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC in Baltimore. The event marked the 20th anniversary of the Junior Maccabi Games and drew 2,000 spectators, according to JCC staff.
The Mini and Junior Maccabi Games were created to provide many of the same opportunities for healthy athletic competition and social and cultural experiences as the original JCC Maccabi Games, but for a younger crowd: The original JCC Maccabi Games are for teens aged 13-16, while Mini Maccabi is for ages 9-10, and Junior Maccabi is for ages 11-12.
“It was truly an honor to host the 2018 Junior and Mini Games," said Greater Baltimore JCC CEO Barak Hermann. “They provide a platform to offer fun, intentional, and relevant Jewish experiences for our kids and our families.”
Over the course of one day, boys and girls competed in the Olympic-style contests in basketball, soccer, swimming, and tennis. There were 170 athletes from Baltimore alone. The JCC of Greater Baltimore tennis team had a strong showing in the Maccabi Junior competition, with Jacob Bender, Josh Solomon, and Elon Volkstein taking home gold medals, Riley Shapiro taking silver, and Noah Bender and Lilly Beall taking bronze. Baltimore teams also earned gold, silver, and bronze medals for Maccabi Junior girls basketball, Maccabi Mini girls basketball, and Maccabi Mini boys basketball, respectively.
The Maccabi Junior boys soccer and boys baseball teams from the Bender JCC in Rockville, Maryland, got a taste of the gold as well. And Greater Baltimore JCC swimmers collected several medals: Mark Cherches (four gold); Nick Shats (four gold); Sammy Rotman (three gold, one silver); and Sasha Belyansky (one gold, three silver).
“For the kids, it’s a really fun opportunity to showcase, be with Jewish friends, meet new Jewish kids from all over the East Coast and share who they are,” said JCC of Greater Baltimore Chief Operating Officer Paul Lurie. A significant part of the mission of the Maccabi Games is connecting young Jewish athletes and reinforcing Jewish values of tikkun olam (repairing the world), kavod (respect), rina (joy), ga’ava (pride — the good kind), lev tov (big-heartedness), and amiut Yehudit (Jewish peoplehood).
“We are so fortunate for our incredible team of staff and lay leaders who have helped make this a reality,” said Lurie, giving a string of shout-outs to Will Minkin, Randy Getz, and Stacey Getz, who all chaired the event, as well as to the steering committee and coaches.
“Thanks also to all of our amazing staff, led by Rebecca Chinsky, JCC senior recreation director, who have worked so hard over the past few months to ensure that these 750 athletes have a day to remember,” he said.
JCCs in Baltimore and the Greater Washington area will be sending athletes to the 36th annual JCC Maccabi Games in Irvine, California, Aug. 5-10. A total of 6,000 teens from around the globe are expected to participate, so stay tuned for amazing stories from this uniquely Jewish athletic competition.
By Kami Troy
Kami Troy is the senior editor of Kol HaBirah.