Sometimes your brother is the guy who calls you “annoying” and “weird” and then marches into the bathroom and uses up your hair products.

And sometimes your brother is the person who comes up with a really great idea and inspires you to give something completely new a try – and it turns out to be one of the best experiences of your life.

It was Claire Yerman’s brother, Albert, who first learned about the JCC Maccabi Games. In 2008, he signed up to play soccer at the games in Detroit, and he fell in love with the whole event. When he told his little sister about the games, Claire “decided to experience it for myself.”

Claire Yerman
Claire Yerman: “The Games are so much more than a sports competition. They are a chance to give back to the community.”

The experience was, in a word, exceptional – and it would repeat itself. In 2009, Claire attended her first JCC Maccabi Games, in Richmond, Virginia, where she also played soccer. The next year she went to the JCC Maccabi Games in Israel, and the year after that to New York, and last year to Orange County, California.

What’s so magical about the event?

In addition to being a lot of fun, “the games are important because they give an opportunity for Jewish people around the country to connect and realize how similar they really are,” said Claire, 16, of West Bloomfield. “Without Maccabi, very few of these friendships and connections would have been made.”

“The Games are also about giving back through a community service project which benefits the host community. Overall, the Games are a great experience that has helped me grow into the person I am today.”

Next summer, the Jewish Community Center of Metropolitan Detroit will welcome the 2014 JCC Maccabi Games & ArtsFest for the fifth time – the only city that has ever hosted the event that many times. Activities will be held throughout August, with opening night at the Joe Louis Arena.

More than 2,000 participants ages 13-17, their families and coaches are expected. The games, the largest gathering of Jewish teens in the world, will be chaired by Rick Zussman and Karen Gordon, with Florine Mark and Joel Jacob serving as honorary chairs.

The 2014 JCC Maccabi Games & ArtsFest’s Rick Zussman (co-chair), Ariella Monson (director) and Gary Sikorski (security).
The 2014 JCC Maccabi Games & ArtsFest’s Rick Zussman (co-chair), Ariella Monson (director) and Gary Sikorski (security).

Ariella Monson is director, and Rebecca Hoffheimer is assistant director of the Detroit games. You know what it’s like when a few friends or relatives are coming to town and you’re looking for nice, safe places for them to stay? Monson and Hoffheimer are doing that – for about 1,600 teens.

Fortunately, JCC Maccabi Games kids are pretty flexible. Luxury accommodations are absolutely not necessary, and if you don’t have enough beds, Maccabi staff is happy to provide air mattresses.

So what is required?

All families:

  • Must be Jewish
  • Will be asked to house two or more visiting athletes or artists
  • Need to provide transportation for participants each morning and each evening to/from either the JCC or other local venues
  • Have one social programming event on Host Family Night (for example: go bowling, have pizza with the family, go to a movie)
  • Attend one orientation meeting next summer

Additionally, more than 1,000 volunteers are needed to make the Games a success.

“It’s easy and fun to become involved and volunteers are needed for every aspect of the event,” Monson said. Volunteers do not need expertise in either sports or the arts, or even to be available for a lot of time. Simply contact the Maccabi office, express interest, and staff will make the shidduch between you and available opportunities.

Most people know that the JCC Maccabi Games & ArtsFest are all about sports. This year’s lineup includes baseball, basketball, soccer, volleyball, softball, hockey, inline hockey, bowling, dance, swimming, table tennis and tennis.

But 2014 will mark the first time Metro Detroit welcomes the ArtsFest, coordinated by Elaine (Hendriks) Smith and featuring acting/improve, culinary arts, vocal music/glee, dance, musical theater, rock band, star reporter and visual arts. Participants will have the opportunity to learn with professionals in small workshop sessions, collaborate with peers on a final arts showcase and, of course, improve their talents.

Members of the 2014 JCC Maccabi Games & ArtsFest team: Elaine (Hendricks) Smith, Karen Gordon, Ariella Monson, Paige Erlich, Rebecca Hoffheimer and Franci Silver.
Members of the 2014 JCC Maccabi Games & ArtsFest team: Elaine (Hendricks) Smith, Karen Gordon, Ariella Monson, Paige Erlich, Rebecca Hoffheimer and Franci Silver.

In addition to the sports/arts activities, the JCC Maccabi Games & ArtsFest includes Hang Time (where kids get a chance to relax and meet each other) and JCC Cares, when participants volunteer at various local charitable organizations.

Tryouts for those interested in participating in the 2014 JCC Maccabi Games & ArtsFest will be held in December and January. For dates and times, please visit or contact Franci Silver, 2014 local delegation head, at or 248.505.9007.

To sign up as a host family or to volunteer, call 248.432.5500 or e-mail]

-by Elizabeth Applebaum