Athletic Montreal Jewish teens are being encouraged to try out for the first Maccabi International Youth Games taking place in Israel from July 22-Aug. 1.
Daniel Smajovits, Quebec co-chair of Maccabi Canada, is spreading the word locally about the new event, which is open to boys and girls aged 14-16 (certain 13-year-olds will be accepted). Competition is in team sports only: soccer, volleyball, basketball and baseball (softball for girls).
The plan is for the Youth Games to take place every four years, in the year following the primary Maccabiah Games, which were held last summer.
The junior division of those games, where a wider range of both team and individual sports are played, will continue, said Smajovits.
The new games are expected to attract 1,500 athletes from North America, South America, Europe, Australia and Israel. Smajovits said it is hoped Canada sends about 150 kids.
In addition to 10 days of competition, participants will be offered a varied experience of Israel – day trips, volunteer service opportunities, and educational programming. The World Maccabi Union wants to familiarize youths with the movement and encourage them to compete in the next Maccabiah Games in 2021, he said.
“This is all about strengthening Jewish identity through sport, in a team atmosphere,” Smajovits said.
Maccabi Canada is especially interested in fielding strong soccer teams because that is the flagship event at the games due to the sport’s global popularity, he said.
Although Canada is not a soccer powerhouse, Smajovits notes that the girls’ junior soccer team earned an unexpected bronze medal at last summer’s games.
The cost for athletes is an all-inclusive $4,850. However, the delegation will depart and return via Toronto, meaning Montrealers are responsible for their transportation to and from Pearson International Airport.
Maccabi Canada will endeavour to assist any qualified would-be participant who cannot afford that amount, Smajovits said. The cost is considerably less than juniors paid to go to the 2017 Maccabiah Games.
Tryouts for each sport have started in Toronto, and if demand is sufficient, some may be held in Montreal as well, he said. Coaches are also based only in Toronto.
To be considered, fill out an application form available online at www.maccabicanada.com. Smajovits also welcomes any preliminary questions and can be reached at Daniel@maccabicanada.com.
Participants must be Canadian citizens or lived a minimum of six months in Canada in the year of the games.
Maccabi considers a person is Jewish if at least one of their biological parents is Jewish and they do not practise another religion besides Judaism. In the case of Jews by choice, they must have undergone conversion by “one of the recognized denominations of Judaism.