Congratulations once again to the New Orleans Jewish Community Center and its decision to support the 30th anniversary Maccabi Games in Memphis. While it might have been easier and cheaper to have sent the Jewish athletes to Houston again, the decision to send them instead to Memphis might have been nothing short of inspirational. The reason was that the Maccabi Games began three decades ago in Memphis, so to expose the youngsters to a sense of history made them feel all the more important and special. Also, while the games do emphasize winning to a degree, there is ample time and several consolation tournaments to allow for keeping one’s self-esteem, even after suffering what might be seen as devastating defeats.
The host city of Memphis and the Memphis JCC pulled together to make the events ever more dramatic and appealing. They utilized the FedEx Forum for opening night ceremonies, which included a dramatic torch lighting ceremony and entry of the more than 1,000 athletes into the arena. (See our related cover story.) The Memphis Zoo was opened for a nighttime social event as was Redwing Park, the home of the Memphis Triple-A franchise. Even the closing night ceremonies at the JCC featured kosher barbeque, keeping the emphasis on the Jewish aspects of the event, but giving consideration to Southern culture.
Having the participants take part in funding for cancer research and constructing mezuzah holders gave them a sense of social action and the spirit of tikun olum. The staff chaperones of Brian Soileau and Josh Talbert are to be congratulated for their excellent repartee with the participants, ensuring their continued interest in returning to next year’s games. After thirty years the formula for success is still the same. Make the games exciting and supportive and the athletes will return to compete again next year. The Maccabi Games allow Jewish athletes to compete against one another and to team with one another, sharing common experiences which will last over the course of several lifetimes. It would seem the spirit and competition at this year’s Maccabi Games were more successful than anyone could have imagined and it’s no doubt due to proper planning and execution on all levels. Mazel tov to all involved: the athletes, the parents, the supports staffs at all the JCCs and to the volunteers of Memphis who opened their homes and their hearts to their visitors.