Jewish teens from all around the world travel to Rockland for a week of competitive sports
BY SARA GILBERT
For many years now locals in the Rockland Jewish community have been discussing hosting the Maccabi Games here in Rockland. Since 1988, JCC Rockland has been sending teen athletes to compete in the weeklong yearly event.
By 2004, Stew Abramson, the delegation head that year, had David Kirschtel, the CEO of JCC Rockland, convinced that Rockland ought to host the Games one year. The only question remaining was when.
Once the JCC moved into its new, much larger building at 450 West Nyack Road in West Nyack and had a chance to settle in over the past few years, it was clearly time.
Hosting the Games involved almost three years of planning and recruiting: 450 host families, 1,000 volunteers, 200 coaches, 200 local teen athletes and 1,050 visiting teen athletes.
The week of August 12-17 is planned to the brim with activities, including competitive sports for boys and girls ages 12-16, community service projects, Jewish and Israeli themed programs, art and dance, and an opportunity to be a journalist for the Star Reporter, which will cover the Games and events. Most of all, though, there will be a lot of teen bonding.
The sports teams include baseball, basketball, softball, volleyball, hockey, soccer, lacrosse and more. The teens obviously benefit from this event, but so does the community and local economy, according to Kirschtel.
“This is an extremely large event,” he said.
The JCC has been working with public agencies, the local government and private agencies and businesses in order to make this week in August happen.
The impact on the local economy is going to be terrific, according to Kirschtel. “All the local businesses are going to benefit from this. It leads to people spending money locally.”
There are an estimated 2,000 hotel rooms booked for those visiting for the games. “And people need to eat,” he reminds. Hotels, restaurants, caterers, supermarkets, venues, the malls, and more will all be pleasantly impacted.
“When you put on these types of events it proves that with the support of community anything is possible,” said Kirschtel. “It helps to develop pride in the community.”
The timing of the largest Jewish sporting event in the nation coming to Rockland couldn’t be better, according to Kirschtel. This year is the 40th anniversary of the 1972 Munich Olympics, in addition to the 30th anniversary of the Maccabi Games.
“For us, the timing couldn’t have turned out better,” said Kirschtel. “The stars have been aligned just right and we couldn’t be happier.”
The Games this year are centered around commemorating the 11 Israeli Olympic athletes who were murdered by the Palestinian terrorist group Black September. So far the JCC has hosted 10 events, one for each athlete. The opening ceremony on August 12 will be the 11th and final event honoring those lost in 1972.
The JCC, families of the Munich 11 and several local politicians and leaders, have been petitioning the International Olympic Committee for a minute of silence at the opening ceremony of each Olympic games in order to remember those 11 athletes. So far the IOC has refused.
The week is anticipated to be a mix of fun sports, meaningful education, helping others and bringing increased business to Rockland County.