Why Mini & Jr. Maccabi Games Deserve our Support

February 27, 2023

Darrell Braman, current JCC board member and past coach whose children both were participants in Maccabi, shares his experiences about the games. 

While I have coached my son and daughter in several sports and watched them compete on the athletic field hundreds of times, I am probably most proud of their involvement in the Maccabi program.   Sam (21) and Maddie (25) both attended Jewish Day School in Baltimore, so the draw for me and my wife was not so much the Jewish values and pride that Maccabi promotes — which are a true strength of the games — rather, it was the sense of being part of something bigger and yet more basic, as part of a uniquely Jewish event that the national Maccabi games and the international Maccabi movement represent.  Where literally hundreds of Jewish youths compete together and support each other in an athletic competition, where winning is not the most important goal, and attracting college scouts is never part of the agenda.   The stresses of travel or club competition are far from the Maccabi field!   Instead, our kids could take time out and enjoy playing sports in a supportive and respectful Jewish environment, meet other kids in the Jewish community, and be coached by mentors who foster mutual respect and sportsmanship, all in a fun Jewish atmosphere! 

Maddie and Sam started with Jr Maccabi soccer and baseball, which served as an “appetizer” for the “main course” – the national Maccabi games.  Both our kids enjoyed travelling and meeting other Jewish athletes from around the country, staying with a host family and trading Maccabi pins with opposing teams.   While they were having fun on the playing fields, they gained a deeper understanding and appreciation of Jewish values.  They identified with the State of Israeli by taking part in the pomp and circumstance of the opening ceremonies — where hundreds of Jewish athletes march into an athletic stadium to the Israeli and US national anthems.  This was an altogether moving and bonding experience for all the participants.   And the social aspect of the games was not lost on our kids either! They both made lifelong friends from their Maccabi experiences – in fact, as I write this blog, Sam is spending a semester abroad in Australia with a friend of his who was on his Maccabi baseball team! 

As a parent who had his own unique Jewish journey that did not involve Maccabi, I am grateful that my children had the opportunity to play in both Jr. and Maccabi.  I hope other families can take advantage of all that Maccabi has to offer and participate in this rich and meaningful experience.

The Mini & Jr. Maccabi games will be held in Baltimore at the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC on Sunday May 7. For information about upcoming tryouts and volunteer opportunities, please visit www.jcc.org/minijrmaccabi

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