The Merage Jewish Community Center (JCC) is gearing up once again to play host to more than 150 pre-teen Jewish boys and girls for at the seventh annual Jr. Maccabi Games.
Kids, ages 5-11, from Orange County, the San Fernando Valley, Westside LA, Long Beach and San Diego gather to celebrate sports, arts, Jewish culture, community and fun with the ruach (spirit) and rachmanus (sportsmanship). They choose from art, basketball, dance, musical theater, soccer, swimming, tennis, and sports journalism.
While exciting and fun, the day is about more than sports and competition. It is about developing a sense of belonging in our youth. “When you put ten Jewish kids together to play basketball in the gym. It’s a Jewish activity. Jr. Maccabi is truly about building community and Jewish Peoplehood and that represents the true Maccabi spirit,” said Dan Bernstein, President & CEO at the JCC. He goes on to assert, “It is never too early to teach our children the culture of Maccabi.”
Events include an opening ceremony; a rousing parade of athletes who will march in with their respective delegations, followed by the athletes’, spectators’ and coaches’ oaths. In between events, the kids meet new friends, cheer on teammates and do community service together. This year our Jr. Maccabi kids are working with JCC Cares to improve the lives of shelter pets by making cat and dog toys for animals in need in local shelters.
Starting with the Games’ oaths, the various competitions are intentionally imbued with a focus on rachmanus and midot. Rachmanus according to Jamie, mother of two Jr. Maccabi athletes, means “playing fair and with Maccabi spirit”. Jacob, a young participant, further explains, rachmanus means, “Keeping team spirit, respect and friendship towards each other in sports. Luke, age 12, adds “I loved the spirit, or rachmanus, of the players when they are on the field, court and pool. It was fantastic to have all of us kids together”.
Midot refers to values. The teams march in under banners hailing Maccabi midot, including pride, tikkun olam (repair the world) and ahava (love).
“Clear eyes, full heart… can’t lose!”
Eddie Priesand, the JCC’s Sports & Recreation Director, better known “Coach Eddie”, runs the Games. “I love seeing our Jr. Maccabis compete through sports competitions, create through ArtsFest and journalism, serve the community through JCC Cares and show tons of ruach (spirit) while having fun!”
Some of the young participants opt to participate as sports journalists or “Star Reporters”, capturing the Games in photos, stories and quotes. Last year, they asked athletes to share secrets to success:
- “Accomplish the goals to accomplish life”, Viktor, age 12
- “Work hard, play hard”, Ben, age 12
- “If you make mistakes, keep playing and doing your best,” suggests Toby, age 10.
- “Work hard, play hard” advises Fionia.
The Junior Games are for many a precursor to the JCC Maccabi Games for older teens, ages 12-16, who travel to different parts of the country to compete in a weeklong event. Even though Jr. Maccabi is a one-day event, great effort is made by the Merage JCC and JCC’s from Southern California to tie the participants to a large community of Jewish peers and to create lifelong memories that will encourage the athletes to participate in the “big games” for teenagers.
Jr. Maccabi Games
Sunday, May 19, 2019
at the Merage JCC
For more information contact Eddie Priesand.