Maccabi USA/Sports for Israel, the sponsor of the U.S. Team to the World Maccabiah Games in Israel, evolved from a dream shared by four visionaries: Harry Henshel, Charles Orenstein, Edward Rosenblum and Harold O. Zimman. Mere weeks after the establishment of a Jewish homeland in 1948, these leaders embarked on a two-fold mission: to help Israel develop as a nation through Sports, and to promote Fitness and Athletics among Jewish Youth. The organization was founded as the United States Committee Sports for Israel and evolved into Maccabi USA/Sports for Israel (MUSA) many years later.
Almost from the very beginning, the Organization has met and surpassed the goals of its founders. The first goal was accomplished when Israel was recognized by the International Olympic Committee, thus becoming eligible to participate in the Olympic Games in 1952. From there, the Organization continued to develop projects to increase Jewish identity, encourage Jewish pride, strengthen bonds among Jews worldwide and create a heightened awareness of Israel.
In furthering its mission, MUSA created the concept of a USA Cultural and Education Program called Pre-Camp in 1985 when a two-day program for Open and Juniors athletes was held at Rutgers University. From 1989 to the present, in order to enhance the Maccabiah experience, ISRAEL CONNECT (previously called Pre-Camp) is held in Israel before the Maccabiah begins. This intensive four-day educational, cultural and social experience introduces the athletes to the people of Israel and to their rich Jewish culture and traditions. The program has included visits to important cultural and historical sites, such as the Western Wall, Yad Vashem and Masada, interaction with Israelis and the opportunity to become a Bar or Bat Mitzvah in Israel in a ceremony conducted by the USA Team Rabbi. In 1993, our Lev L’Lev program was established to strengthen the concept of Tzedakah among the athletes, who are given the opportunity to visit hospitals, schools and other facilities in Israel. These programs are designed to enrich the lives of the participants, to heighten their awareness of Jewish identity, to create lifelong bonds with Israel and the Jewish people and to foster a sense of Jewish pride. Strating 2009, ISRAEL CONNECT was increased to 6 days, including a Shabbat celebration.
Today, more than 50 years after its inception, Maccabi USA/Sports for Israel remains dedicated to enriching the lives of Jews in the United States, Israel and throughout the Diaspora through a variety of athletic, cultural and educational programs. Hundreds of volunteers, including large numbers of World Maccabiah Games alumni, immerse themselves in a wide array of activities, from golf and tennis tournaments to social events. Widespread volunteer participation assures that the organization remains relevant to Jewish men and women in the United States, Israel and throughout the Diaspora.
Maccabi USA/Sports for Israel, an adjunct member of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, is one of 50 territorial representatives of Maccabi World Union, the international governing organization. The Maccabi movement, with ties to the ideals of Zionism and named for Judah (The Hammer) Maccabee, symbolizes Jewish strength and excellence in sport. Maccabi World Union, founded in 1921, has a membership of more than 400,000 in 60 countries, making it the largest Jewish membership organization in the world.