Kaiserman JCC CEO Amy Krulik is walking around all smiles these days, thinking of a warm May Sunday.
For the first time since 2015 the Wynnewood facility will host the Mid-Atlantic Junior Maccabi Games, scheduled for May 5. The event features competition for Jewish athletes ages 9-12.
“We’re thrilled,” Krulik said. “We hosted the first-ever of these games in 1998; it was then the Tri-State Junior Maccabi Games, and it’s good to have the competition back. Since the beginning, these games have really expanded. There will be delegations from 18 JCCs, from upstate New York to Virginia. In all, we figure 850 to 1,000 athletes will be attending.”
Scheduled to attend are JCCs from Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia and Delaware.
The athletes will compete in seven sports at various venues in the Wynnewood area, with basketball, soccer, baseball, swimming, tennis and track and field — holdovers from other years — and coed flag football making its debut.
No athlete will compete until after the opening ceremony.
“The goal of these games is to give young Jewish athletes the feel of what an Olympics-style competition is really like,” Krulik said. “So we have an opening ceremony. All 18 delegations will march in, there will be some short speeches and then we’ll start.
“This is not just about winning a gold medal, but also about sportsmanship and sharing our Jewish values. It’s really a nice experience for Jewish athletes of this age group. We are really all together as a community; tzedakah and mitzvot are a major part of this.”
Krulik referenced one of Kaiserman’s soccer teams at a past game in Richmond, Va.
“As it turned out, one of our teams was short a player,” Krulik said. “All the other teams agreed to play short a player. We do some special things as part of these games.”
The general community is helping out, including nearby Friends Central School.
“Friends Central will be our venue for the swimming, soccer, tennis, track and field and some basketball,” Krulik said. “Their track teams use our indoor track during the winter, and they are glad to help. There will also be some basketball at Kaiserman, and I am confirming two other venues. Basketball is the most popular sport, with many teams at each age level.”
Two other Lower Merion venues will also be used, as soccer will be played at Penn Wynne Park and baseball will take place at South Ardmore Park. Kaiserman will be the site for coed flag football.
“All the venues are close, so it will be easy for parents and others to watch different events without having to travel far,” Krulik said.
When Kaiserman hosted the Tri-State Junior Maccabi Games, only athletes 11-12 were included. Then, several years ago, the Rockland JCC began the Mini-Maccabi Games for athletes ages 9-10.
After a decision to combine the 9-10 competition with the 11-12, the first Mid-Atlantic Junior Maccabi Games involving athletes 9-12 was a major success in Baltimore in 2018.
“We are glad to be carrying on a new tradition,” Krulik said. “The Junior Maccabi games are a great introduction to the Maccabi experience and a great feeder for our Maccabi program for high school students.”
Krulik and Games Director Sam Schuman are putting the finishing touches on the logistics involved with the event.
“Traffic, you name it,” said Krulik. “We want all our visitors — athletes and others — to enjoy their time with us.”
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