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How Maccabi Canada connects Jewish athletes throughout the world to Judaism, each other and Israel.

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Canadian athletes excelled at the 2017 Maccabiah Games (Photo: Maccabi Canada website)

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It’s a testament to the human spirit. A modern-day contest of wills and strength. A competition that relies as much upon mental fortitude as it does physical. To put it simply, I am referring to sports.

We don’t necessarily think about Jews when we think about athletes. The truth is, while Jews do not dominate in sports, there are many, many Jews who have contributed significantly to both amateur and professional sport. Does Sandy Koufax sound familiar? He was the pitcher for the Dodgers major league baseball team for 12 seasons, 1955-66. What about Zach Hyman of the Toronto Maple Leafs? How about NBA star Amare Stoudemire or Major League Ballplayer, Kevin Pillar? There is certainly a fair share of well-known athletes who are members of the “tribe”.

But this is not about the professional accomplishments of individual athletes or teams. This is about the tremendous capacity for sport to contribute to building community and to celebrate those who help to create a stronger Jewish community through athletics.

Maccabi Canada works tirelessly to promote Jewish identity in the youth of Canada, those who are the future leaders of our community. One of the incredible programs that they run which is supported by the Azrieli Foundation is Maccabi Canada’s Azrieli Israel Experience.

This amazing opportunity for junior athletes began at the Maccabiah Games in 2013. It is a 6-day journey that combines travel to historic and modern sites in Israel, an amazing understanding of the beauty of Israel and her people, and participation in Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) activities. Maccabi Canada reports that 45% of junior athletes experience Israel for the first time as participants of the Maccabiah Games. The Azrieli experience not only provides these athletes the opportunity to form strong bonds with fellow Jewish athletes, but also to create a bond between these young Jews and Israel. 

This past year, quite by chance, I became involved with Maccabi Canada. My wife decided that she wanted to get involved in a fun sport that was developed specifically for adult women. The sport is called Catchball. It is a sport played on a court with a similar set up to a volleyball court and is played with a similar ball, but the rules are very different. Best of all, the sport originated in Israel! When my wife found out that they were looking for coaches, she volunteered my services. Though I had no previous knowledge of Catchball, I do have some past Volleyball experience. 

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Fast forward and I am not only coaching Catchball, but I signed on to go to the Maccabiah Games in Israel as a chaperone with Team Canada in 2021 (now pushed to 2022 due to COVID-19). Catchball is just one example of the incredible Jewish community that Maccabi Canada has built though their vast array of athletic programs, both local and as part of international competition.

The summer of 2019, Maccabi Canada further connected with other Jewish athletes around the globe during two international events: The Pan American Maccabiah Games in Mexico City and the European Maccabiah Games in Budapest, Hungary. While the focus of both of these events was on competition through sport, one cannot ignore the impact that they had on participants’ Judaic selves.

Lee Mes, Executive Director of Maccabi Canada, describes how, in Mexico City, 2,000 Jews from different countries gathered together to celebrate Shabbat through prayer and Shabbat dinner. She further describes the touching scene in Budapest when “3,000 Jews came together to begin their Shabbat service by singing Hatikvah loud and proud.”

Maccabi Canada continues to promote Jewish identity through sport and does so for approximately 20,000 people across Canada every year. They “take athletes who are Jewish to Israel, give them an Israel Experience of a lifetime and bring back Jewish athletes.”

Corey Margolese is the founder of JTeach.ca, a not-for-profit organization that offers training and resources in the dangers of antisemitism, Holocaust education, and in Judaic traditions, culture and religion. He is a public school teacher.

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

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