We believe in giving back to the community. Sometimes its with money; sometimes its with our time. Sometimes we publicize what we do; other times we do not. We want to share with you where we spent some of our time last week as we helped with the 2017 JCC Maccabi Games.

The Levite Jewish Community Center in Birmingham hosted the 2017 JCC Maccabi Games. This was the first time that the Games have been hosted in Alabama. Birmingham is the second-smallest community to ever host the games.

The JCC Maccabi Games are an Olympic-style sporting competition held each summer in North America and is the second largest organized sports program for Jewish teenagers in the world. The Maccabi Movement began in 1895 when the first all-Jewish sports club was formed in Constantinople. The first world Maccabiah Games were held in Israel in 1932. Now, this two week competition takes place every four years and has featured many world class Jewish athletes.

The Games are so much more than what happens between the lines. Of course the games are important, but that’s just one component of the Maccabi experience. During the Maccabi week, many collateral experiences develop. New friendships are formed. Kids from 25-30 delegations around the country, Israel and the Ukraine. The kids also were given a real history lesson about the Civil Rights movement, Birmingham and the South. A staple of the event is JCC Cares, teens spend time performing tikkun olam or “repairing the world”, taking a few hours out of their competition and play schedules to participate in community service. In addition, the Games honor and remember the Munich 11 athletes by memorializing their lives at the Opening Ceremony. Community members and guests, promise to never forget the past, including the athletes and coaches who were killed by terrorists at the 1972 Olympics, and honor their memories in prose and spirit throughout the Games.

The Games started off with a moving Opening Ceremonies that was attended by more than 3,000 community attendees, 900 athletes and 150 coaches. Gen Krulak and former SEC Commissioner Slive were celebrity Co-Chairs for the Games.  Auburn basketball coach Bruce Pearl gave the keynote address.

The games were a success in large part because of the small but vital roles hundreds of volunteers filled. For our part, we each hosted four out of state participants at our homes for the week. For many of these kids have never been to the Deep South, tried sweet tea (gasp!), boiled peanuts (the horror!!) or proper BBQ (blasphemy!!!).  We housed them, gave them rides to transportation hubs and provided meals.

In addition, we served as the Venue Directors for the games at the Altamont School. Altamont hosted dance, flag football, track and field and girls’ basketball. We had a good time watching hundreds of athletes came through Altamont during the week and participate in the games. Thank you to Sarah Whiteside (Head of School), and the Altamont staff and administration for allowing us to use the school during the week. They were gracious hosts.

Hats off to the Games Co-Chairs Bruce and Carleton Sokol and Layne and Amanda Held.  Betzy Lynch, Executive Director of the LJCC and her entire staff are to be commended for a job well done.

We are proud to call Birmingham home and proud to have played a small role in this unique event.