Maccabi Games

“So you’re headed O.S., finally getting away from your sister who totally has kangaroos loose in the top paddock. A few things the oldies told you: always eat your brekkie; send a card to the relos back home; don’t whinge if you lose!”

Need the translation? That’s “Australian” for: So you’re headed overseas, finally getting away from your crazy sister. A few things the parents told you: always eat your breakfast; send a card to the relatives back home; and don’t complain if you lose.

Colorful slang may be just the kind of thing you’ll hear as Australian teens head to the JCC Maccabi Games & ArtsFest in the United States. And, chances are that you’ll pick up some cool expressions of your own if you play host to young guests from Down Under staying with you for the Games.

In any event, when you host an out-of-town visitor to  JCC Maccabi, you’re certain to make a friend. And maybe even experience a life-changing moment, mate.

Consider Karen Rubenfire Sherbin

Karen’s first experience with the JCC Maccabi Games came when her family hosted an athlete from Australia in 1984. She learned all about life in Australia from her guest, and she taught her new friend all about Detroit. It was, in a word, ace (great)!

In fact, the entire JCC Maccabi was so ace that Karen not only continued being active with the Games, she became a volunteer chair and an enthusiastic advocate for the program.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for kids across the world to get together in a Judaic setting,” she says. “Meeting other kids and having a chance to build a relationship with them, experiencing time away from your family, being involved in team sports – it’s all good.”

And for the volunteers: “It’s a great experience to be involved in a program of this caliber,” says Karen, co-chair of JCC Cares, a day that engages participants in community service projects. “It’s very rewarding to be able to give back and to represent your city…[And] I feel so blessed to have made so many new friends.”

The JCC Maccabi Games & ArtsFest, which brings together teens from around the world for sports, arts and camaraderie, comes to Detroit from August 17-22, and organizers are still in need of a few good volunteers. No special talents are required and hours are flexible.

“We really appreciate everyone who steps forward to help,” said JCC Maccabi Director Ariella Monson. “Come for an hour or the whole day. Whatever you can do will make a huge difference.”

Karen’s first experience with Maccabi was as a host family. Later, her husband Aaron served as a coach when their daughter played soccer at the Games in 2008. Today, Aaron heads JCC Maccabi soccer.

A social worker who lives in Farmington Hills, Karen also is project coordinator for Detroit’s Project Healthy Community, a nonprofit that promotes the well-being of persons of all ages in communities in need, so it was a natural choice that she signed on with JCC Cares, which this year will include projects such as collecting books and canned goods to donate, working with local agencies like JARC and the National Council of Jewish Women.

“We want kids to know that it’s their responsibility to give back as individuals and as a community,” she says. “And we want them to feel the positive energy that comes from giving to somebody less fortunate.”

Volunteering is a Rubenfire tradition

Karen’s brother Mark,  his wife Shelly and their sons, as well as Mark and Karen’s parents, all are longtime volunteers in the general and Jewish community, especially when it comes to the JCC Maccabi Games & ArtsFest.

Mark and Shelly Rubenfire, of West Bloomfield, became JCC Maccabi Games & ArtsFest volunteers when their sons signed on to play soccer. They continue to volunteer because they love it.