Latest News and Updates

January JCC Maccabi Games Update

Dear JCC Maccabi Games Community,

2015 is here and we can officially say we are in the year of The Games. Online registration is officially open! Who needs to register? All JCC Maccabi Games volunteers, host families, athletes, staff, coaches, and VIP guests must register online. Click here to register now.  We continue to count down the 200 days until Opening Ceremonies at the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee.

We hope our current JCC Maccabi Games Updates will keep you up to date on the most recent information about The Games .The “Games Features” on the left side of the page will help navigate you through the newsletter.

Our team would like to thank you for joining the team and “Getting in The Games!”  Please help us continue to grow our community by sharing this update with your friends so they can get involved too!

The pace is steadily picking up as we have entered 2015.  We are working to finalize our plans for evening events, food, and transportation.  Our Steering Committee members are continuing to work hard planning and scheduling the week of The Games.  This month we will move our Steering Committee meeting offsite and visit Nicolet High School.  Since Nicolet will serve as our Activity Center during the week of The Games, we thought it would be a good idea to start talking specifics with the larger planning team about how we will use the Nicolet Campus. We anticipate holding future meetings at other Games venues so everyone can visualize the exciting plans for themselves.

“Maccabi Mania” had another powerful presence last month.  The Games community was wearing Games gear during the JCC Membership Appreciation Breakfast on December 25th and also during the Community Hanukkah Celebration held at the JCC.   It is always great to see Staff and Lay Leaders around the JCC sporting the JCC Maccabi Games gear.

Our own Games delegation, Team Milwaukee, got in on the excitement in December and hosted a “Silent Disco” to kick off team recruitment and partnership with BBYO.  More than 80 Jewish teens danced the night away “silently” in the Marcus Gym here at the JCC.  We are excited to see Team Milwaukee grow as we near The Games!  Check out the pictures below and to the left.

Team Milwaukee & BBYO's Silent Disco

Registration for athletes is now live and if you know a teen who might be interested, I invite you to join us for an information session this Thursday, January 15th from 7:00-8:00pm at the JCC.   Our team will also be on hand to help athletes and parents with the on-line registration before and after the meeting.  Spread the word – we’d love to see our teens and parents there!

As we continue to build support for The Games, I am proud to be able to share that in recent weeks we have solidified partnerships with several Milwaukee leaders, including The Daniel M. Soref Charitable Trust, WE Energies, Northwestern Mutual Foundation, Helen Bader Foundation, Inc. and Children’s Hospital.   We are working hard to build a youth wellness endowment as a legacy to our hosting the JCC Maccabi Games, and would appreciate you considering who in your personal networks might have connections to individuals, corporations or foundations that might partner with us to build a healthier Milwaukee.

Please let our team know if you have any questions or learn how to get involved in The Games.  We are here to help.

Have a great January, and stay warm!


Jesse Rosen, JCC Maccabi Games Director

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Jesse RosenJanuary JCC Maccabi Games Update

JCC Maccabi Games were ‘best week ever’

By Dann Jacobonson

I’ve been a volleyball coach for about 25 years. I have coached boys and girls, women and men, at every level from fourth grade through college.

Dann Jacobson. Photo by Dan Zaitz.

Dann Jacobson. Photo by Dan Zaitz.

Yet I have never been a part of something as life affirming and positive as my experience coaching at the JCC Maccabi Games, which took place Aug. 10-15 in Boca Raton, Fla., and which will be coming to Milwaukee in August 2015.

The Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center invited me to coach Team Milwaukee volleyball in Boca Raton. I wanted to experience what my daughter had raved about the summer before when she participated in the Games in Austin, Texas. And I never turn down an opportunity to coach volleyball.

Our team, which included my daughter, included girls from Milwaukee, San Antonio, Texas, and Palo Alto, Calif. The girls met only 15 minutes before play, and they quickly became friends.

I know that their quick bonding occurred because they were in the same special situation, but I know that being Jewish had something to do with it, too. It was a powerful thing to see.

We played a team from Houston first, and they beat us pretty easily. In our second match, we played a team from Israel. They beat us 25 to 6 and 25 to 7. Their team was clearly the best in the competition.

Yet the girls had so much fun. This is often lost in a day of competition — that athletic competition is supposed to be fun.

Quick improvement

Just as our own team quickly bonded, so did our team and the Israeli players. Within 10 minutes, you would have thought the girls had known each other for 10 years.

It was especially heartwarming when I think what it must be like for the Israeli teens back home, knowing how difficult their lives must have been during the Operation Protective Edge fighting between Israel and Hamas (July 8-Aug. 26).

I appreciated the opportunity to make friends with the Israeli coach. It was fun to talk volleyball with a coach from another country.

Our players improved on the second day. We beat a team from Dallas, and I could see our girls becoming more confident.

On the third day, we were in the playoffs. We played Israel again in the quarter finals. They won again, but the scores were 26 to 16 and 26 to 17. Even though Israel was the better team, we made them work hard.

Afterwards, within minutes, the fierce competition ended, and the girls from both teams were hugging their new friends, teaching each other cheers and dancing on the court.

This was exactly what I want sports to be: a competition where everyone gives their best effort, but are friends after the competition is over.

The opening and closing ceremonies were like the Olympics. Thousands of people were in the arena.         I had never been around this many Jews in one place. It was a unique feeling that made me very proud.

And it wasn’t just Jews. The athletes and the host families were all Jewish, but the volunteers and coaches represented many different faiths and backgrounds.

It was amazing to see the sheer joy of the kids. I kept thinking how cool it was that I had the opportunity to be a part of this, to represent my city, and to experience this with my daughter.

I had no idea what to expect when I got there. I thought it would be fun, but I didn’t realize it would be such a powerful experience.

I was so proud of our JCC staff members. They were strong representatives of our community. They worked hard and cared about our kids like no one else could. They coached and led the right way, and they taught me a great deal.

Each delegation head was given three Midot medals, which they can award to any participants at the end of the Games — coaches, volunteers, players — anyone.

The medals represent six characteristics: tikkun olam (repairing the world), kavod (honor), rina (joy), ga’ava (pride), lev tov (big hearted) and amiut yehudit (Jewish peoplehood).

I received a Midot medal from the Palo Alto delegation head. I have been honored to receive awards in the past, but no award has been this profoundly meaningful to me. It left me quite emotional (not surprising for those who know me) and speechless (quite surprising for those who know me).

I walked away with a lasting understanding of how important community is and how important it is to come together and celebrate our collective beliefs and values.

It was the peak of a great week — just being with one another and helping each other rise up to be our best. It was the best week ever.

Dann Jacobson is the varsity girls’ volleyball coach and a teacher of American history, sociology and leadership for social justice at Nicolet High School. He and his wife, Kirsten, an oncology nurse, have two children: Alyx (14), a freshman at Nicolet, and Max (11), a sixth grader at Bayside Middle School.

1st published in the Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

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milwaukeemaccabiJCC Maccabi Games were ‘best week ever’

December JCC Maccabi Games Update

Dear JCC Maccabi Games Community,

Looking out the window, there is little question that December is upon us.  While it might be a bit chilly, the good news is we are getting closer to Summer and the JCC Maccabi Games!  It’s been a busy few weeks in our office.  Last month we had our second site visit from New York of the JCC Association (JCCA) team.  As owners of the JCC Maccabi Games brand, JCCA is a great resource for us as we take their brand and mold it to fit Milwaukee’s style.  During their visit, the majority of our Steering Committees were able to meet individually with the JCCA to help answer questions and guide us in taking the next steps towards finalizing our plans for the week of the Games.  We were thrilled that after their visit, their report back to our community shared their confidence that we are well on our way to hosting a fantastic set of the JCC Maccabi Games.

Maccabi Mania was alive and well in November at the JCC.  It’s awesome that nearly every day we see staff and lay leaders around the JCC sporting the JCC Maccabi Games gear.  We also had a fun picture frame created, it along with our banner are at the West entry to the JCC.  Stop by, take a selfie and post it on your social media!   Join in the fun – you can see some of the photos taken so far  below and to the left!

JCCA Visits Milwaukee!

JCCA Visits Milwaukee!

As promised, our JCC Maccabi Games Update will be arrive in your inbox each month to provide you the latest information about The Games here in Milwaukee.  To better navigate this newsletter, please notice the “Games Features” on the left side and select them to learn more about different aspects of The Games.

Thank you for being a part of the JCC Maccabi Games Community, please help us continue to build our team  by spreading the word about The Games and forwarding this JCC Maccabi Games Update to your friends so they can get involved too!


Stay warm and Happy Holidays,
Jesse Rosen
JCC Maccabi Games Director

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Jesse RosenDecember JCC Maccabi Games Update

Competitions picked for JCC Maccabi Games

By Chad Tessmer

In mid-November, Milwaukee received the final list of athletic competitions it was awarded as host community for the 2015 JCC Maccabi Games.

Announcement of the sports for the Milwaukee Games — which will kick off at the BMO Harris Bradley Center on Aug. 2 — is a major milestone as local leaders continue to recruit, train and prepare for competition.

“These sports perfectly support the evolution of Team Milwaukee,” said delegation head Aaron Miller. “Not only were we awarded the athletics where we’ve performed well over the past couple years, but we’re also hosting sports that boast great local talent that can join the team.”

The full list of athletics and activities include:

Team Sports (Milwaukee athletes between ages 13-16)

Boys Baseball
Girls Basketball
Boys Basketball (14 and under, 16 and under)
Girls Volleyball (16 and under)
Boys Flag Football (16 and under)
Boys In-Line Hockey (16 and under)
Girls Soccer (14 and under, 16 and under)
Boys Soccer (14 and under, 16 and under)
Individual Sports (Milwaukee athletes between ages 12-16)
Table Tennis
Track and Field
Star Reporter

Steve Arenzon, who co-chairs the JCC Maccabi Games Athletics Committee with Alicia Sadoff, was thrilled with the final list.

“It’s a competitive process when it comes to designating which community hosts athletics. It was important to us that we hosted the sports where we’ve had high participation — like flag football and girls volleyball — while also adding sports that are hugely important to our community.

“To be hosting sports like baseball, soccer, basketball, tennis and track and field speaks volumes about the Games’ potential to have a big impact throughout greater Milwaukee.”

“It is hard to describe the sense of Jewish peoplehood you fell during the week of the Games, when the entire community comes together for the competition and comradery,” added Sadoff. “There are so many ways to be involved in the JCC Maccabi Games — as an athlete, coach, volunteer or host.”

Team Milwaukee earned 17 medals in the 2014 Games in Boca Raton, Fla., having grown more than 125 percent in size from the team that participated in Austin, Texas, the previous year.

“We’re looking at building a team of at least 100 teen athletes at a minimum,” said Miller. “We’re gaining momentum, getting excited and having our returning athletes help tell the story of what it means to be a member of Team Milwaukee in the JCC Maccabi Games.”

As part of its recruitment effort, Team Milwaukee also unveiled a new team logo. Jesse Rosen, director of the JCC Maccabi Games, said the design brought the team and the hosting efforts together in a meaningful way.

“Like the brand for the 2015 Games, this new look for Team Milwaukee celebrates our community while embracing our shared future,” he said. “Growing Team Milwaukee is as much about the 2015 Games as it is about all future Games. In fact, it’s about the very goals we committed to when winning our host bid — building and sustaining a strong Jewish community for generations to come.”

“It’s time,” said Miller. “For athletes of any ability and local coaches — it’s time to sign up, get to work and commit to Team Milwaukee’s success.”

Interested participants can learn more and sign up at
Chad Tessmer is Chief Marketing Officer at the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center.

1st published in the Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

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milwaukeemaccabiCompetitions picked for JCC Maccabi Games

November JCC Maccabi Games Update

Dear JCC Maccabi Games Community,

The Countdown continues and TODAY we are 264 days away from lighting the torch during the Opening Ceremonies of the JCC Maccabi Games 2015 here in Milwaukee!

I cannot believe how quickly this year is flying by.  It is going to be August 2nd before we know it.  As one of the first who’ve signed on to join our team of volunteers, we want to be sure that you have the latest information about the Games, so we would like to introduce our newest communication tool – JCC Maccabi Games Update, a monthly newsletter about all things JCC Maccabi Games.

In each issues, on the left side you will find our “Games Features”.  By selecting on of these icons, you will learn more about hosting, volunteering, coaching, competing, supporting, and upcoming events.  One of the most important things you can do is to help us spread the word about The Games and forward this to your friends so they can get involved too!

Now for a few updates about what is happening in our community as we build toward the JCC Maccabi Games. Our committees are working hard in continuing to organize the best JCC Maccabi Games ever.  They meet on a regular basis and are really making progress for this summer.   We would love more members of the community to join our planning team!

The Games spirit is growing throughout our community; here at the JCC we have started Maccabi Mania – days when we ask the staff to participate in spreading the word by wearing (and posting on social media) all things JCC Maccabi Games.  Our first Maccabi Mania in October was a success and we are looking forward to many more throughout the year!  Check out the pictures below and to the left!

We thank you for being an early supporter and signing up to get involved.  We hope that you will encourage others to become apart of this one time Community experience for Milwaukee!  We look forward to sharing more news with you in the months ahead, and in the meantime if you have any questions, comments or ideas, we are always thrilled to hear from our team!

Jesse Rosen
JCC Maccabi Games Director
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Jesse RosenNovember JCC Maccabi Games Update

Milwaukeeans witness 2014 Maccabi Games to plan 2015

By Chad Tessmer

It was a summer of travel for participants in the JCC Maccabi Games, as Milwaukee’s Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center prepares to host the Games for the first time since 1997.Team Milwaukee at the time of the opening ceremony of this year’s JCC Maccabi Games in Boca Raton, Fla. Photo provided by Chad Tessmer.

With Team Milwaukee descending on Boca Raton to compete; members of the Games Steering Committee traveling to Detroit to see the Games in action; and professional staff adding additional visits to Cherry Hill, N.J., and New York City — community leaders are engaged in taking the mission of the Games and making it a reality for Milwaukee.

Jamie Miller is co-chair of Milwaukee’s JCC Maccabi Games. He came away from his visit to Detroit’s Games (Aug. 17-22) with a new appreciation for what it takes to host a successful Games, how far the Milwaukee leadership team has come and how much more work is needed.

“The need to be organized and have everyone working towards a shared goal is critical,” he said. “Watching the Games in action really put things into perspective, and reminded me that getting the volunteers and support necessary is achievable.”

About 30 community leaders and staff members traveled by bus to the Detroit Games. They observed a wide variety of athletic competitions, social service projects known as “JCC Cares,” and “Hangtime” — where participants relax, convene and participate in enrichment activities.

Members of the Steering Committee for the Milwaukee JCC Maccabi Games shown during their Detroit visit. Photo provided by Chad Tessmer.

Added Games co-chair Nancy Kennedy Barnett, who had also traveled to the Austin Games in 2013 as part of the JCC’s exploratory committee: “I am excited for this opportunity to bring Milwaukee together, to create this type of experience where Jewish athletes can thrive. In Detroit, I witnessed our values coming to life — repairing the world, respect, joy, pride — and I know we will do the same here.”

After the visit, Steering Committee members have shared their experiences, promoted the Games and worked to bring as many volunteers and hosts into the Games through open houses and planning meetings.

“It’s time to rally the troops,” said Miller. “Being in Detroit helped me understand the commitment of JCC Maccabi Games volunteers, and made me appreciate just how great our growing Milwaukee team truly is.”

Brew City in Boca

The previous week, Aug. 10-15, Team Milwaukee participated in the Games in Boca Raton, Fla., boasting its largest delegation of teen athletes since the community last hosted the Games in 1997. Led by Aaron Miller, 37 athletes returned home a week later having earned 17 individual and team medals.

“We’re proud of how our athletes performed on the field,” said Miller, “But we’re even more proud of how these teens embodied our promise to ‘Be Milwaukee.’ “For us that meant showing respect, performing with the highest effort, and demonstrating to our host just what it means to be a member of the Milwaukee Jewish community.”

With open registration for the 2015 Games approaching, Miller and his colleagues are hard at work building the team that will represent Milwaukee during its own opening ceremonies on the floor of the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

The JCC seeks to field a local delegation of more than 100 athletes between the ages of 12 and 16.

Staff on hand

JCC Maccabi Games Director Jesse Rosen has been traveling the country to witness as much Games activity as possible. He made a two-week tour of all 2014 host cities — adding Cherry Hill, N.J., to an itinerary that included Detroit and Boca Raton.

For Rosen, the visits validated much of what he had learned over the past year.

“In every conversation I’ve had with a colleague, it became clear that the largest thing we could do to ensure a successful Games is to reach our volunteer and host goals,” he said.

“Simply put, we need over 1,000 volunteers between now and Aug. 8, and nearly 1,000 beds for visiting athletes. I have never been more confident that we can get it done here in Milwaukee — but now is the time to get folks signed up and ready to go,” said Rosen.

Rosen has been building the professional team that will work alongside committee and volunteer leaders. He has travelled throughout Milwaukee to grow the ranks of donors, volunteers and host families.

“The vision for the JCC Maccabi Games in Milwaukee is, quite frankly, aspirational,” Rosen said. “We’re already seeing what’s possible as this community comes together and makes this a reality. It’ll be exciting to watch as more of Jewish Milwaukee makes the Games its own.”

Chad Tessmer is Chief Marketing Officer at the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center.

1st published in the Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

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milwaukeemaccabiMilwaukeeans witness 2014 Maccabi Games to plan 2015