The JCC Maccabi Games act as the perfect arena for Jewish youth to compete with and support one another through the gift of sport.

The Games this year took place in Orange County, California and ran between August 5 – 10. Over 2,300 young athletes from all over the country competed along side one another in various sports, such as: swimming, basketball, volleyball, track & field, soccer, and more. This Olympic-style competition (with Olympic-style proportions) is the largest annual Jewish youth event in the world, so the JCC Denver was proud to have over 50 athletes from the Denver area compete right alongside the best of the best.

Completing the week-long event with a total of 31 medals (!!!), the JCC Denver team headed back to the Rocky Mountains with their heads held high. Along with their sports equipment and new neck bling, they also brought home the most valuable gift of all: appreciation of their fellow competitors.

When we reached out to Maccabi athletes, we were eager to hear about how it felt to compete and, at times, to win in their selected sport. While they were thrilled to discuss their triumph, they were quick to announce their positive feelings toward meeting new friends from across the country.

When speaking to athletes such as Oliver Gottesfeld (age 13), a player on the Maccabi Flag Football team, we see just how powerful meeting new friends can be. When asked about his favorite part of the 2018 Games, Oliver said, “I liked meeting and getting to know a lot of new people. My favorite part [of the Games] was getting to meet so many different people from so many different places.” Along with that, Oliver stated that the biggest lesson he gained during his time in the OC: “to always enjoy meeting new people.” Now, the Games are known to promote sportsmanship and mutual respect with one another, but our conversation with Oliver highlights the importance of making new friends, even in a highly competitive setting.

In the same vein, Gavi Fox (14) from Track & Field (a player of few, yet wise, words), shared that the Maccabi Games this year were “amazing” and the best part was “meeting new people.” When asked about his greatest takeaway, he mentions “confidence” as one of the symbolic medals he will proudly carry around his neck.

Along with these outstanding teen athletes, we were fortunate enough to get in contact with Mike Kboudi, the coach of the Boys U16 Basketball team. He was able to perfectly sum up the experience he had this year at Maccabi alongside his athletes. “This year my boys got the Maccabi experience to its fullest degree – they competed as hard as they could during the day, and had as much fun as they could at night. My team drew crowds – they were a special group of kids that were leaders, they were good sports, and they understood the meaning of getting 2300 Jewish athletes together. This was an amazing experience not only for my team but for the coaches as well. Watching these athletes compete and interact made each and every one of us proud.”