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Team Pittsburgh Shines at the 2023 JCC Maccabi Games and Access in Fort Lauderdale

Posted by Rachael Speck on September 8, 2023

Team Pittsburgh Shines at the 2023 JCC Maccabi Games and Access in Fort Lauderdale

It’s not whether you won or lost, but how you played the game. That’s the true spirit of the JCC Maccabi Games and Access and a message echoed throughout the week by Team Pittsburgh’s coaches and staff. The JCC Maccabi Games are an Olympic-style sporting event for Jewish teens ages 12-16 years old, but they’re about so much more than that.  The sports serve as a spark to ignite Jewish pride and identity amongst the athletes and provide an opportunity for them to develop lifelong relationships with Jewish peers from around the world. That’s exactly what happened in Fort Lauderdale for the 18 teens representing the Pittsburgh Jewish community.

At this year’s games, held in Fort Lauderdale, athletes stayed with families in the host community.  Amongst those at the Fort Lauderdale games were 21 athletes participating in second year of JCC Maccabi Access, a JCC Maccabi Games experience for Jewish athletes with intellectual and developmental disabilities. While our delegation did not participate in the Access program this year, we’re hopeful to bring this experience to our community for 2024.

Team Pittsburgh was just one of 64 delegations in Fort Lauderdale, including delegations from Canada, Great Britain, Argentina, South Africa, Ukraine, and Israel altogether comprising of nearly 2,000 athletes. Team Pittsburgh competed in basketball, ice hockey, and soccer. The girls’ basketball team, boys’ soccer team, and ice hockey team were “mixed” teams which combine athletes from delegations to form teams to compete.  Mixed teams are an exciting part of the games that not only allow the athletes to compete against Jewish teens from all over the word, but to compete together along side them on the same team.

We’re proud of the way our athletes represented the Pittsburgh Jewish community.  Our 16U Boys basketball team even brought home a silver medal.  More importantly, our athletes brought home friendships, memories, and a deeper connection to Judaism that they’ll cherish forever. Eli Coffey, one of the basketball players, said it best,

“The games were an amazing experience that I would recommend to anyone.  Maccabi gave me an opportunity to play with and against Jewish athletes whom with I became friends with.  It also helped me realize how many Jewish athletes were in Pittsburgh and that I could connect with.

Returning home was bittersweet for the athletes. While they were exhausted from the week of competition and happy to reconnect with their families, they understood it was an end to a very special week.  Planning for next year’s games is already underway and we can’t wait.   The games will be hosted in Houston and Detroit. If you are interested in being a part of the 2024 games, reach out to Rachael Speck at [email protected].

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