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Thursday, November 27, 2014

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Maccabi Canada-Quebec recharging for Maccabiah

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Maccabi Canada Quebec region chair Farrel Miller, left, presents a token of appreciation to Israeli Consul General Joel Lion.

With a little more than a year to go to the 19th edition of the Maccabiah Games in Israel, Maccabi Canada’s Quebec region is in full proactive mode to get the local organization recharged and make it more vital and dynamic.

That was the message conveyed at the region’s recent annual general meeting inside the Hall of Honour at the YM-YWHA Ben Weider JCC.

Officials, including national president Tommy Bacher and regional chair Farrel Miller, described some of the group’s plans.

They intend to renew old connections with the Y, put more focus on the youth component of the Games, actively recruit athletes (now being done), add sports and make the organization genuinely relevant to the Jewish community on an ongoing – not just a quadrennial – basis.

Key to that, the meeting heard, is making Maccabi activities synonymous in the community’s mind with fostering and maintaining Jewish identity, continuity and pride.

“That is what we have to do,” Bacher, who came in from Toronto, told the 100 or so energized Maccabi representatives, officials, athletes and supporters. “This is an organization that has to be mainstream with everyone, not every four years, but all the time.”

Miller, one-time owner of the Montreal Juniors hockey team, was named regional chair about a year ago, succeeding Teddy Miller, now a national vice-president. He listed his priorities as identifying the best athletes, in tandem with Montreal Canada’s national athletic committee; injecting new energy into the region, and fundraising.

To those ends, he indicated, it would be helpful to get the Y back into the JCC Maccabi Games, which is not run by Maccabi Canada but has previously served as a competitive stepping-stone to Israel.

It has been beneficial, he said, to bring fresh blood – Farrel Miller, Lawrence Routtenberg and others – into the organization to work alongside stalwarts like Roy Salomon, Gary Ulrich and Leon Elfassy, who were at the meeting.

Certainly, the next Maccabiah Games, July 16 to 31, 2013, promise to be the most ambitious yet, with 8,000 Jewish athletes expected from around the world.

Tali Dubrovsky, Maccabi Canada’s executive director in Toronto, told the meeting that the organization hopes to have 1,000 Canadians apply for the Games and have the final Team Canada number 400 to 500.

Participation, however, doesn’t come cheap: junior and open competitors will pay $8,300, and masters athletes, $9,600.

In a departure from previous Games, opening ceremonies will take place at Teddy Kollek Stadium in Jerusalem, with the closing ceremony at the Sammy Ofer Stadium in Haifa. Teddy Miller said the 19th Games will have a greater presence in Jerusalem and be less “spread out.” Juniors will arrive in Israel a week before the Games for “training and touring.”

Ice hockey will be back after a four-year absence, and new sports will include equestrian and cricket. There will also be a triathlon for the first time.

As for fundraising, one Quebec official acknowledged to The CJN that the region has yet to find its own version of Robert Lantos, the Toronto-based Canadian film producer and Maccabi Canada vice-president who has been a generous supporter of the organization. But Teddy Miller said there will be a fundraising concert featuring the Doobie Brothers in December presented through the ORT organization, and potential Maccabi Canada supporters and sponsors are being actively approached.

Meanwhile, potential participants are being encouraged to register on the new-and-improved maccabicanada.com website to get the tryout dates for individual and team sports. The general Maccabiah site is maccabiah.com.

In remarks to the meeting, Israeli Consul General Joel Lion praised the Canadian organization and urged Jews to visit Israel during the Games to display their Jewish pride.

“We are still here, proud and free people in our own land,” he said.

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