The 2012 JCC Maccabi Games kicked off Sunday night in Rockland County, N.Y., as over 1,250 Jewish athletes from 36 delegations began competing in an array of Olympic-style sports events, while also celebrating Jewish values, culture and history.
Over the next week, athletes from the United States, Israel, Canada, Latin America and Europe will test their physical strength while cultivating relationships with Jewish peers from different walks of life, in the largest organized sports competitions for Jewish teens.
Despite the International Olympic Committee’s refusal to hold a moment of silence for the 11 Israeli athletes who were killed during the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, the JCC Maccabi Games held its own ‘Minute for Munich,’ led by Ankie Spitzer, widow of Israeli coach Andre Spitzer.
The JCC Rockland along with Ankie Spitzer initiated the petition, which turned into a worldwide campaign, to commemorate the slain Israeli athletes.
“Tonight we take delight in the broad diversity of the Jewish people,” said Rabbi David Berkman of the New City Jewish Center during the ceremony’s opening remarks. “We speak in accents and different languages. Our customs vary. We may even look different from each other.”
“But this evening we also rejoice in those things that unite us: Our religious and cultural heritage. Our family ties. Our history. Our Hebrew language. Our people-hood,” he added.
The two-hour opening ceremony, which took place at Rockland Community College on Sunday night featured music, dancing and prayer.
Rockland County tourism officials said local attractions and businesses could see a big boost during the duration of the Games, with an estimated $1 million to be pumped into the local economy.