Maccabi Games offer competition, community, and sportsmanship

The St. Louis girls’ soccer team in August, 2010. Top row: Danielle Korein, Emily Muchnick, Coach Korien, Taylor Gold and Andrea Stiffelman. Middle row: Libby Kaiser, Malia Berner, Johanna Eisenberg, Kendall Karon and Leah Cohen. Front row: Mira Tanenbaum and Zoe Wolkowitz.


It’s almost summer, and the Maccabi Games are just around the corner. Each year, more than 7,000 Jewish teens participate in the Maccabi Games sporting competition. The games occur in different places each year, but once every four years, they take place in Israel.

According to, the first Maccabi Games in 1932 included 390 athletes from 14 countries. The very next year, the number of countries doubled and the number of athletes shot up to 1,350. In 2009, the 18th Maccabi in Israel contained a total of over 7,000 athletes from 51 countries, including 903 athletes from the United States.

Athletes can compete in a wide variety of sports at the Maccabi Games: everything from soccer and softball to cycling and fencing is available. Some of these sports are obscure in the U.S but are popular internationally, such as lawn bowls and futsal (a kind of soccer sport).

During the summer of 2010, the U.S held the Maccabi Games in Omaha, Neb. Many teens from St. Louis attended, including Parkway Central High School freshman Emily Muchnick.

“I liked the opening ceremony on the first night,” Emily said. “Everybody gets in their delegation uniforms and it’s a big party. They even bring out a torch with fire like in the real Olympics.”

Marquette High School freshman Justin Malin also attended the Maccabi Games in Omaha.

“The competition had three games which seeded every team into a bracket. From there, we played single-elimination until there were only two teams left,” Justin said. “[The games] helped me build relationships with other Jews, giving me a stronger sense of the Jewish community and unity.”

This summer, the Maccabi Games will return to Israel where over 6,000 athletes are expected to attend. This 11 day, once-in-a-lifetime experience includes five days of competition and six days of sightseeing all over the country.

Zoe Wolkowitz, a sophomore at Parkway Central High School, will be playing soccer at the Maccabi Games in Israel this summer.

“[The games] include all of my favorite things mixed together: friends, sports and parties,” Zoe said. “I am so excited to meet my team and play in Israel. It’s a different country so the culture and atmosphere is going to be exciting, and I can’t wait to meet more people and have more fun.”

In its history, over 100,000 teens have had the opportunity to meet new people, see new places, and compete in a wide variety of sports through the Maccabi Games. To find out more and apply for next year’s Games, visit to