The 2019 JCC Maccabi Games and ArtsFest showcased competitive athletes, talented artists and Detroit as the host with the most.
Last month, as Dexter Davison and most of metro Detroit succumbed to the humidity and dreamed of cruising — like so many Ancient Greeks and their chariots circa the Seleucid Empire — modern maccabees, from the midwest and beyond, met a mightier mission.
Some 1,700 teen participants from 46 delegations descended upon Detroit for the JCC Maccabi Games and ArtsFest. Teams traveled from as far as Israel, Great Britain and exotic parts of Canada to compete and collaborate. With a new location each year, Maccabi perennially draws on vision and values of each venerable venue.
And Detroit, long lauded for its hospitality, is now officially the host with the most. This marks the 6th time Detroit has played Maccabi host, an all-time record since the games began in 1982.*
After months of planning by the host committee and training by the teens — all leaning on 700 volunteers and 380 host families — the games kicked off with opening ceremonies at the Pizzarena:
Fantastic feats of athleticism and artistry filled the following five days, including:
Detroit Hockey came from behind in the semifinals to tie the game 3-3 and force overtime. They punched their ticket to the gold medal game by with sudden-death goal from Jacob Budabin off an assist from Ryan Becker.
Detroit took gold in the Israeli Dance, the premier event in competitive dance. When they weren’t going toe to toe in the Games or rehearsing for ArtsFest, all the dancers worked together wrapping presents for Bottomless Toy Chest as part of JCC Cares.
Both boys basketball teams made the podium in their hometown games. The U14 team entered the championship game undefeated, securing silver, and the U16 cagers netted bronze.
Unlike many of the competing cities that stock their rosters with 15 and 16 year olds, Detroit assembled a girls team with players as young as 12. A 1-0 loss to Ft. Lauderdale kept Team Detroit out of the championship game, but their decisive 3-0 victory over Orange County secured the bronze.
Mitchell Blackman, the All-Catholic League infielder and pitcher from the Frankel Jewish Academy pitched a complete game in Detroit’s quarter-finals game against Los Angeles. Blackman’s arm carried the team into extra innings, where they finally succumbed to the SoCal sluggers.
Of the 12 swimmers on Team Detroit, one came (by car) from Windsor and another courtesy of Coldwater, Michigan.
Ariel Ser, a 12-year-old participant, had never swum (or swam) competitively before and had only two weeks to prepare for the games. He found his sea legs — shaking off any mermaid references and dropping his times in the breast stroke and free style by over 10 seconds.
Ariel’s aquatastic attitude earned him a Midot Medal, the highest honor of the Games, bestowed upon athletes and artists who embody one of the values of Maccabi and go above and beyond what is required.
But that’s not all…
… not by a long shot or a high note. The 2019 JCC Maccabi Games and ArtsFest was wall-to-wall star-studded sportsball, social media and shaved ice …
Rock ‘n Roll
If you’re feeling FOMO —or want to know mo’ — planning is well underway for the Maccabi 2020.
Dexter Davison is the nom de plume of local writer and nonprofiteer Ben Falik.
Photos and videos courtesy of JCC of Metro Detroit.
*The Maccabi movement dates back to 1895 Constantinople, but that’s nobody’s business but the Turks.
**Provisional Maccabi events.