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Local Teens Heading to San Diego The JCC Maccabi Games Begin July 31

Local Teens Heading to San Diego The JCC Maccabi Games Begin July 31
Local Teens Heading to San Diego The JCC Maccabi Games Begin July 31


The JCC Maccabi Games last one week; new friends and a healthy dose of Jewish identity can last a lifetime.

That is the hope for four young Jewish athletes from Milwaukee and Oconomowoc who will compete in the JCC Maccabi Games in San Diego from July 31, 2022.

I want to be able to connect with my favorite sport and the Jewish part of me. I think it’s going to be really cool to experience that and make new friends my age, said Molly Schmidt, 14, a competitive swimmer who will be attending Oconomowoc High School next year.

Other local participants in these summer games include Hayden Baum, 16 (basketball); AJ Katch, 14, (swimming); and Lexi Sabre, 14, (basketball).

About 1,800 Jewish Teens Will Congregate in San Diego for the JCC Maccabi Games, Now in its 40e year. Athletes between the ages of 13 and 16 celebrate their Jewish identity with social action projects and competition in 12 sporting events. These are ice hockey, baseball, basketball, 3X3 basketball, dance, flag football, table tennis, tennis, soccer, volleyball, swimming and golf.

The JCC Maccabi Games is the largest gathering of Jewish youth in North America, said Jake Klavens, 30, recreation manager at the Harry and Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center. He leads the Milwaukee delegation and this is his first time attending the games.

Sixty-nine delegations will be represented in San Diego from across North America, Mexico and Israel. About 1,000 volunteers and 500 host families will be in attendance, accompanied by several thousand spectators.

This isn’t your typical Olympic-style competition, said Samantha Cohen, senior vice president for program and talent representation for the JCC Association of North America. The games are just as, if not more, focused on values ​​and giving back to the community as a whole.

The social action projects range from visiting sick children in hospitals to making school packages and spending time with adults in nursing homes.

The games were suspended for three years due to COVID-19. We were very excited to start over, Cohen said. This summer will be a huge homecoming for the games. Launched a new program, JCC Maccabi Access, for Jewish teens with intellectual and cognitive disabilities. The games will run parallel to the JCC Macabbi Games program.

In 2015, Milwaukee hosted the games that drew 1,000 Jewish teens, including 200 from Wisconsin. Since then, it has not been easy to rekindle interest, says Klavens. Many children go to camp and have other activities. It’s been tough.

Molly’s mother, Loren Schmidt, said: We are delighted that she is not only doing something she loves, which is swimming, but is also allowing her to meet other Jewish children from around the country and the world.

Lexi plays in the basketball league and will attend Homestead High School in Mequon next fall. I’m thrilled Lexi can use her basketball as a way to connect with the larger Jewish community, said her mother, Jennifer Saber. She will attend the games with her son Jacob, 11.

There aren’t enough female Maccabi basketball players in Milwaukee, so Lexi joined the Chicago team. The girls are really nice and welcoming, she said. I am excited to meet new people and play with other Jewish people my own age.

AJ started swimming when he was 8 with the JCC. Now this graduate of Milwaukee Jewish Day School swims with the Schroeder team, a Brown Deer affiliate of the YMCA. He will begin Whitefish Bay High School in the fall.

I have always loved sports and competition. I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to swim at a different level, AJ said. I hope to get a different view of other people’s experiences with their sport and have a good experience outside of where I live.

The Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center in Whitefish Bay will be holding a 3 mile run/walk on July 10 to raise money for the athletes going to the games. To register for the walk/run for the Maccabi athletes, visit




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