The Maccabiah Experience
Athletes from Around the World
They come from all over the World to the State of Israel. For three unforgettable weeks, Jews of all ages and backgrounds convene to share their culture, history and values. And they come to compete.
These Jewish travelers are athletes who gather for the World Maccabiah Games, an Olympic-style competition that is among the top international sporting events in the world. There is something magical about the Maccabiah Games, a certain feeling that touches the heart and soul of everyone who participates. It’s not a feeling that abruptly fades away at the conclusion of the competition. Rather, it lasts a lifetime.
An Experience of a Lifetime
The Maccabi Movement, named for Judah (The Hammer) Maccabee, was initiated in 1895 when the first all-Jewish Maccabi Gymnastics Club was formed in Constantinople. By the end of World War I, more than 100 Maccabi-style clubs existed in Europe. The first Maccabiah Games, featuring 14 countries and 390 athletes, was held in 1932. World events forced the delay of the third Maccabiah Games, scheduled for 1938, until 1950. The Maccabiah Games have been a quadrennial event since 1953. In 1989, motivated by the leadership and vision of Bob Spivak and Alan Sherman, MUSA introduced the concept of a pre-camp, which added cultural and educational programs to enhance and enrich the Maccabiah experience for Open and Juniors athletes. In 2009, the four-day Pre-camp program, now known as ISRAEL CONNECT, was extended to seven days and included visits to the Western Wall, Yad Vashem, Masada and other important historical and cultural sites, a Jewish Identity Seminar and the opportunity for all Team members to become a Bar or Bat Mitzvah. This experience helps to develop a sense of Jewish awareness and Jewish pride and creates a lifelong connection between the athletes and the State of Israel. Numerous athletes have described ISRAEL CONNECT, our signature program, as the highlight of their Maccabiah experience, and this program has become so successful that other countries now offer a similar program to their athletes.
Stars from the Past
Maccabi USA sponsors USA participation in this athletic, cultural and educational extravaganza. Maccabiah Games participants include Basketball stars Ernie Grunfeld, Tal Brody, Danny Schayes and Dolph Schayes, past WNBA President Donna (Geils) Orender; Golfer Bruce Fleisher; Gymnasts Mitch Gaylord, Aly Raisman and Kerri Strug (15th Games Honorary Chair); Rower Don Spero; Swimmers Anthony Ervin, Scott Goldblatt, Lenny Krayzelburg, Jason Lezak, Garrett Weber-Gale and Mark Spitz; Tennis pros Brad Gilbert and Dick Savitt.
Through a program known as Yachad – Hebrew for “together” — every member of the USA Team raises money in support of the Maccabiah. This “shared commitment” program has been implemented to ensure the continued success of the Maccabiah Games