This past Sunday, Orange County’s Jewish community welcomed over 2300 youth from around the United States, Canada, Mexico, Great Britain and Israel for this year’s Maccabi games. Started in 1982, the Maccabi games bring the Jewish community together in the spirit of competition, sharing talent, and developing lasting friendships.
Sitting in the stadium Sunday evening, I was in awe of the energy and emotion all around me. Everyone knew each other in some manner – through synagogue or Jewish community involvement. Out of town guests were welcomed with open arms and the questions of, “do you know…” penetrated every conversation.
What moved me the most was watching all of the athletes, artists and coaches march into the stadium. Orange County youth who participated in the Jr. Maccabi games earlier this spring held the signs for each delegation. Many teams took these youth and hoisted them on their shoulders. Each delegation was proud to be there and showed it through either a brief choreographed greeting, to throwing beads, sunglasses or other hometown gifts into the crowd. And the fans in the stands cheered them all on as if they were our own. And finally, the crowd jumped to their feet as the Orange County delegates entered the stadium.
The thousands of hours of preparation for this moment was finally realized. Organizers like our own Irv and Nancy Chase, Hersh Cherson, and Sam Cohen, from the JCC, began to see the fruits of their labor coming to life. And we, as a community should be so proud to host this week! This is our opportunity as the Orange County Jewish Community to show off what an amazing and welcoming community we are.
But my pride swelled the most as I watched all our TBS youth marching in to the stadium ready for a week of not only hosting, but competing and celebrating with thousands of other Jewish youth from around the world. Each of them is amazing in their own right but even more incredible as a group. Many of them are on teams, some are competing in individual events, but all of them are making connections with other Jews from various communities that will last a lifetime.
I am grateful and thrilled that our own TBS community is so involved in the events of this week. Many of you are hosting, coaching, and volunteering in many different capacities. Thank you! Your gift of time and energy is truly priceless and ensures the success of this week.
The oath of the games recited by the athletes, artists, coaches and spectators included the importance of having rachmanus, compassion for all! And from what I experienced on Sunday night, to what I am hearing throughout this week, there is so much compassion being shared by all. Be proud TBS! You are truly a part of an historical week in which we continue to build community and connections. Yasher Koach!