Maccabiah Games: Sports overcoming Politics

Maccabiah Games: Sports overcoming Politics
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Stephen Wise

Rabbi Wise has focused much of his rabbinate in striving passionately to connect Jews of all ages to their Judaism. Whether its through prayer services, learning or social action, each presents a gateway to stronger Jewish identity. Rabbi Wise has worked recently developing programming for young adults in their 20-30's, starting ongoing successful groups in NYC and Florida, reigniting their connections to Judaism. Rabbi Wise is the spiritual leader for Oakville's Jewish community, and his congregation is Shaarei Beth-El on Morrison Road.

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Last week marked the conclusion of the Maccabiah games – the third largest sporting event in the world often called the Jewish Olympics.  From Morocco to Russia, Spain to Hong Kong, 78 countries took part, the largest since the Maccabiah began in Tel Aviv in 1932.

At the opening ceremonies 10,000 participants marched before the 30,000-strong crowd at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem, including many from our own congregation here in Oakville.  Having been there at the 1985 games, it is quite an emotional and exciting event, with plenty of pomp and circumstance.

US Olympian Aly Raisman lit the Maccabiah flame to kick things off, followed by Amitzur Shapira, an Israeli athlete at the 1972 Munich Olympics, who recited the Yizkor prayer of mourning in memory of the 11 members of the Israeli delegation who were killed in those games and the four Australian athletes killed in the the 1997 Maccabiah bridge disaster.There were speeches delivered by President Shimon Peres, PM Bibi Netanyahu and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat all emphasizing the eternal nature of Jerusalem which for the first time was hosting the opening ceremony and many of the events.

1014039_644530738893556_1335096277_nFinally in order of the Hebrew alphabet, teams marched into the stadium, including Guinea Bissau, Luxembourg, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Cuba — who all sent delegations for the first time.  With 1,100 delegates, the emcees happily announced that Team USA was the “largest traveling delegation;” as President Barack Obama wished Team USA luck in a televised broadcast and also wished Peres a happy 90th birthday.  The Moroccan and Turkish delegations were the only athletes representing Muslim nations in the games.  600 Canadian participants filled the floor when they stepped out onto the pitch, led by Olympic beach volleyball player Josh Binstock.  In accordance with the Maccabiah’s tradition (and not by alphabetical order), the Israeli delegation of over 2,200 athletes, led by dozens of paralympians, marched out to the loud cheers and a standing ovation from the home crowd.

In a relatively quiet summer in Israel, this was a chance for Jewish people from around the world to get together and celebrate sport and comradeship.

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