Maccabi leaders get ready for Vienna games

3,000 participants expected to attend.

GUIORA ESRUBILSKY 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Maccabi World Union is perhaps best known for organizing the Maccabiah Games, a quadrennial sporting event often referred to as the Jewish Olympics that brings thousands of Jewish athletes from around the world to compete in Israel.
In between, however, the organization whose leadership will meet on Sunday for their annual three-day conference, does not close shop, senior Maccabi leaders said in an interview at Kfar Hamaccabiah in Ramat Gan on Tuesday.
“On July 5 we’ll have the European Maccabi Games in Vienna, Austria,” Maccabi President Guiora Esrubilsky said. “We expect 2,000 participants from Europe and North America.”
On Dec. 26, 2011, the Pan- American games will be held in Sao Paulo, the 12th of such games. He expects 3,000 participants from throughout the Americas.
Maccabi clubs and events provide a forum for Jews in the Diaspora to meet coreligionists and be in touch with the community, said Eyal Tiberger, the executive director of Maccabi.
“Beyond the everyday activities at sporting clubs we have dozens of events which thousands of people take part in, either as participants, organizers or hosts,” Tiberger said.
Maccabi was founded in 1895 by a group of expatriate Jews living in Istanbul, then the capital of the Ottoman Empire. Nowadays Maccabi has spread to 63 countries on five continents and has tens of thousands of members.
In Latin America, for instance, where Jewish communal life often revolves around mega sports complex such as the Hebraica in Sao Paulo – which spreads out over an entire city block, has a synagogue, a bank and boasts 25,000 members – Maccabi is particularly significant.
“Maccabi in South America is the center of Jewish life, but the character of the community differs from one place to another,” Tiberger explained.
For an organization that’s been around for 116 years, its expansion into the former Soviet Union is a sign that it has not lost its vitality.
Rabbi Carlos Tapiero, deputy director of Maccabi World Union, said Maccabi has withstood the tests of time.
“We have a simple Jewish value system. If you look at the Shomer Hatza’ir, they were focused on the kibbutz and socialism, or at the Revisionists who were for ‘two banks of the Jordan River,’ then these now are gone,” he said. “We are still here.”
The Maccabi leaders haven’t forgotten that the next Maccabiah, the 19th since the first was held in 1932, is only two years away, and are already planning frantically.
“This time it will be in Jerusalem,” Esrubilsky said.
“It’s a goal of Maccabi to show broad support for Israel and for its eternal capital.”