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Maccabi World Union president gushes with anticipation about upcoming summer Games.

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March 7, 2013 06:22
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MACCABI WORLD UNION PRESIDENT Guiora Esrubilsky

MACCABI WORLD UNION PRESIDENT Guiora Esrubilsky 370. (photo credit: Courtesty/Maccabiah)

 
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Guiora Esrubilsky, President of Maccabi World Union, believes the upcoming 19th Maccabiah will be the best ever, both on and off the field of play.

Esrubilsky, as well as executive members from 38 countries, are currently in Israel for the 7th Maccabi World Union Plenary, which will officially get underway at Kfar Maccabiah on Sunday.

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The main emphasis of the Plenary will of course be this summer’s Maccabiah, which will take place across Israel between July 18 and 30.

Esrubilsky, 65, had to undergo emergency eye surgery for a detached retina on Tuesday, but he was in high spirits and brimming with excitement when he spoke to The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday about the upcoming Jewish Olympics.

“We are expecting almost 9,000 athletes,” he said. “In the last Maccabiah there were almost 8,000 so this is a significant increase.

“There were 50 countries represented in the last Maccabiah and we are expecting 71 to be represented this time. There are also nine new sporting events. We have grown in every aspect, including our budget, but we hope to put on a wonderful Maccabiah.”

Esrubilsky explained that the target of the Maccabiah is to bring its participants to identify with Israel and the Israeli people and also stressed that the decision to hold the opening ceremony at Teddy Stadium was to highlight the message that “Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Israel.”



Unsurprisingly, Esrubilsky admitted that the security situation in Israel remains a concern, but he was hopeful that everything will go as planned.

“One of the concerns is that there could be some security situation while people are here,” he said. “But God willing everything will be fine and we are confident that this will be the best Maccabiah ever.

“There are massive delegations coming from across the world. The USA are bringing over 1,000 athletes, Brazil is sending 500, South Africa 400, with many other countries sending hundreds of people as well. The organizational and financial effort is huge and we are very proud that the leadership of Maccabi is meeting these challenges.”

The total budget of the Maccabiah is 34 million dollars, with two thirds of it being paid for by the athletes, the Israeli government giving NIS 18 million and donations covering the rest.

While sports will be the focus for 13 days in July, the impact Maccabi World Union has across the globe is much more far reaching. MWU is the largest and longest running Jewish sports organization spanning over five continents, more than 60 countries, 450 clubs, and 400,000 members.

Esrubilsky’s life story is a testament to the significant role the organization plays in the lives of many people across the world.

“I’m very proud to say that I’m a product of the Maccabi ideology,” he said. “I was born in Argentina to a family which was not poor, but which couldn’t afford to send me to a Jewish school. My only connection with Judaism was that my parents didn’t send me to school on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.

“But when a Maccabi club opened near my home when I was 13-years-old my father told me to go and join and play basketball. One day they asked me if I’d like to come for Kabalat Shabbat (Friday night service), and after they explained to me what that was, I decided to attend. I then had my first ever Passover at the club and began to learn more and more about Judaism. That was all a result of coming to play sports.”

It should therefore be of little surprise that Esrubilsky continues to believe in the power of sports to promote Jewish and Zionist values.

“Sports are a means by which Maccabi tries to bring people closer to a Jewish life and Jewish values and emphasize the centrality of Israel to the Jewish people,” he added.

“Our goal as an ideological movement is to fight assimilation, to work towards the continuity of Jewish life across the world and to bring them to identify with Israel. Sport is the tool that attracts the masses.”

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