“…nothing could be compared to the feeling of representing Canada as a proud Jew in my homeland. It was only once our plane flew over the infinitely blue oceans and I set eyes on one of the most beautiful countries in the world did I realize the principal mission of the Maccabiah: strengthening Jewish athletes’ connection to the State of Israel by staging the highest possible levels of athletic competition…“
David Ratner, Junior Basketball team 2017
The Maccabiah Games, a prominent international sports competition, often referred to as the “Jewish Olympics” are organized by Maccabi World Union every four years and have become the largest regularly held international event in Israel.
In July 2017 the Maccabiah hosted 10,000 athletes representing 80 countries, making it the third largest event in the world, behind only the Summer Olympics and the Asian Games. Maccabi Canada was responsible for sending a delegation of 600 proud Canadians, one of the largest delegations from any Diaspora country. Canadian athletes won 72 medals at the Games, including 15 Golds.
Maccabi Canada takes athletes who are Jewish to Israel, gives them an Israel Experience of a lifetime and brings back Jewish athletes.
The more competitive and successful Jewish athletes become, the more immersed they become in the secular world of sports, often distancing themselves from their Jewish roots. As the only national Jewish sports organization in Canada, Maccabi Canada is able to connect with Jews who are interested in sports, but often are not engaged in Jewish activities. The Maccabiah Games provide elite Jewish athletes with the framework to meet and compete against other Jewish athletes, and connect to the Land of Israel – often for the first me, nourishing a Jewish spirit that in many cases has been suppressed in the secular environment of leagues and competitive systems.
To some, this will be a stage in a long, successful athletic career. To others, this will be the highlight of their athletic journey. To all, this will be a life-changing point in their personal Jewish journeys, a journey to reinforcing their Jewish pride, to cultivating support for Israel and to becoming our future leaders.
The late David Ben-Gurion once summarized the value of the games as follows:
“Maccabi is without a doubt one of the most important offshoots of the Zionist movement. Its importance is indicated in its infusion of life by bolstering the physical state of the Jewish people, weakened by centuries of exile and dispersion. Jews returning to their homeland and those born there must possess physical stamina, just as they must possess spiritual and intellectual vigour in science and technology; our existence in our ancestral home requires physical might no less than intellectual excellence.”
Past Maccabiah athletes include Fred Oberlander, international wrestling champion and founder of Maccabi Canada, and Olympic champions; Mark Spitz, Kerri Strug, Lenny Krayzelburg, Mitch Gaylord, Jason Lezak, Ally Riesman, Josh Binstock and paralympian, Joel Dembe.