Where does our strength come from?
During these most trying of times for worldwide Jewry, we ask ourselves, “Where does our strength as a people come from? Does it stem from our rich history, from our religious beliefs, or from our shared responsibility toward one another?”
While different people may give different answers, one certain response is that we derive our strength from our youth. Their energy, vitality, sense of invincibility and optimism feed us. Our Jewish youth represents our future. Their prospering is for the betterment of us all. To achieve that goal, we need them to absorb our values and to carry us all to the place we Jews have forever vied among nations: the betterment of all humankind.
However, with this aim in mind we must ensure that we instill in them knowledge of our history, of our present circumstances, and our traditional values that will continue to guide us into the future.
Thus the next question is how do we reach them? How do we make them want to be part of the Jewish people and to preserve and perpetuate who we are? How do we break through the clutter of messages our youth is exposed to, through the vitriolic anti-Israel teaching at their universities, through the intrusion of electronic devices to which they seem universally attached?
At Maccabi USA we have found one answer: we reach them through sports.
During the last Maccabiah, Team USA consisted of 1,102 members, all exposed to the wonders of the State of Israel. Our six-day ISRAEL CONNECT program afforded the 850 Open and Juniors athletes the opportunity to gain insights into the country and take pride in their Jewish roots. Thereafter, upon meeting over 9,000 Jewish athletes from 75 nations they grasped the vastness of the Diaspora—and the common denominator that binds us all, our people hood.
To some athletes, the great excitement resulted in lifelong memories of a wonderful sports competition. To most however, as communicated to me scores of times, the Maccabiah was “the greatest experience of my life,” and “a life-changing experience.”
Our leadership is committed to provide this critical learning opportunity for our youthful participants. Even our Masters players live the dream. When participating, they see and experience the excitement of the Maccabiah and commit to financial support, such as the generous gifts of Sam Sporn and Stuart Weitzman of $1,000,000 each! Without such friends and many others who make regular, essential donations—large and small—we would have had to reduce our programs.
And, there is more! This year, two outstanding events are coming up: The European Maccabi Games in Berlin, where our solidarity team of over 200 headed by Tonja Magerman will march in a historical event of the largest gathering of Jews in Germany since WWII—all walking tall and proud, wearing and carrying the Star of David!
Then in December, the Pan American Maccabi Games in Chile, led by Lou Moyerman, will have a USA delegation of about 650 athletes.
In addition, Jeff Bukantz is gearing up to lead Maccabi USA at the 20th Maccabiah Games in 2017. Only two years away, work is already under way with our indefatigable professional staff in our Philadelphia office.
Please plan to come with us to Berlin and/or Santiago and enjoy the fruits of our labor.
Ron Carner, President