“Hey, what about us?”
For years, folks have passed the Bucks (as in Bucks County) when it comes to putting together athletic competition for younger Jewish boys and girls.
Sure, there’s Team Philadelphia for those ages 13 to 16, which encompasses four areas and will compete at the JCC North American Maccabi Games later this summer. But for those younger than that in Doylestown, Yardley, Neshaminy and other parts of Bucks County, there really wasn’t another option.
After years of talking, Jeff Fuchs, who once coached both gymnastics and table tennis at the Maccabiah Games and managed Team USA in the 2011 European Maccabi Games in Vienna, has taken action. He created the nonprofit Maccabi Athletic Association (MAA), which will operate year-round under Amateur Athletic Union sanction.
While the name might be a bit confusing, the goal is clear.
“There’s a lot of unaffiliated Jewish families in the area who are very heavily involved in sports,” said the 49-year-old Fuchs, the son of a rabbi. “Unfortunately, synagogues are not stepping up with programming for youth.
“I’m getting a group of like-minded people trying to create a Jewish presence. They’ve been looking for an alternative.”
The plan for the MAA is to put together teams for 10- to 12-year-olds throughout the region, spreading the word at synagogues and through social media. They’ll start off with baseball, soccer, swimming, tennis and chess, and compete at the Mid-Atlantic Junior Maccabi Games May 7 in Wilmington, Del.
Fuchs only has had enough turnout thus far to form boys’ teams. He hopes to add girls’ teams later.
“I’m going to synagogues and reaching out,” explained Fuchs, a real estate investor/developer for Sabra Properties LLC and a salesman for TCS Black Label, which sells high-end real estate for athletes and celebrities. “I gave a pitch at [Congregation] Kol Emet on what Maccabi is all about.
“Even though we have the name Maccabi, we’re not affiliated with USA Maccabi and the Maccabiah Games. But it’s athletics, and we have the same values and goals of engaging Jewish athletes.”
The difference is Fuchs would like to do it year-round and include kids of all ages and genders. Because they’re often tied up with other commitments, he intends to focus on travel teams in certain sports — starting with soccer, basketball and table tennis.
First on the agenda, though, are the Mid-Atlantic Games. In previous years, Fuchs collaborated with Marti Berk of the Kaiserman JCC, who also handled the Center City and Montgomery County participants. She’s happy to see him take the reins.
“It’s an awesome thing he’s doing,” Berk said. “He’s trying to work getting a stronger Jewish presence up there.
“He has a sports mind and felt the need for that kind of program in Bucks County. Bucks is the farthest-reaching territory, so it totally makes sense to take it and grow it. I totally support getting more kids involved.”
Fuchs is expecting to bring 50 kids to Wilmington this year, then build from there.
“We’re committed to taking a delegation, then grow that and take more teams by next year and expand to include girls,” Fuchs said.
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