By Chad Tessmer
As the countdown clock to the JCC Maccabi Games Opening Ceremonies crossed into double digits, planning work was well underway for the nearly 30 delegation heads who represented visiting communities during their first official visit to Milwaukee the last week of April.
“It’s an important milestone, to welcome our visiting delegations and fully introduce them to Milwaukee and begin sharing our vision for the Games,” said Kelly Biedinger, JCC Maccabi Games Assistant Director. “For many of our delegation heads, coaches, and athletes – this will be their first visit to the Milwaukee area. It’s our goal to give them an exceptional experience from day one.”
During the visit, delegation heads visited with local staff and volunteer leaders, discussed competition schedules and logistics, and visited various Games sites – including the BMO Harris Bradley Center, home of the Opening Ceremonies on August 2nd.
“Our steering and planning committees have done an amazing job lining up all the pieces that will make these Games successful, “added JCC Maccabi Games Coordinator Carissa Mindt. “It’s really exciting to share their good work, and actually start to bring it to life with the communities who will be participating.”
Delegations competing in the 2015 JCC Maccabi Games include Atlanta, Austin, Boulder, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Mexico, Miami, Philadelphia, San Diego, and Vancouver.
“One of the blessings of hosting the Games is showcasing our beautiful community to these visiting delegations,” said Games co-chair Nancy Kennedy Barnett. “Not only will these Jewish teens enjoy Milwaukee like they’ve never imagined – but our local families have the opportunity to host these athletes and learn more about their communities and Jewish life across the country.”
Israel In Milwaukee
Among the many priorities of the JCC Maccabi Games, strengthening youth connections to Israel remains at the forefront. From the Opening Ceremonies, through competitions and community service projects, and concluding with the closing celebration – Israel will be top of mind and deeply integrated into the events.
“For many of our athletes, participating in the JCC Maccabi Games will be one of the most meaningful experiences of their young Jewish journeys,” said Games co-chair Jamie Miller. “You’ll see that connection in everything we do the week of August 2nd, and we’re proud to be a community that is breaking new ground in how we bring Israel into our Games.”
While Israel sends a delegation to every JCC Maccabi Games host city, the Milwaukee team is working to bring a second Israeli delegation to the Games and hopes to build a joint delegation between Milwaukee athletes and Israeli teens from partner region Sovev Kinnert.
“It’s an exciting idea,” added Miller, “and another way in which we can build a lasting experience for every single athlete, coach, host family, and volunteer.”
Beds, Beds, Beds
With the overall project plan in place, the emphasis for the Games leadership team is engaging as many potential host families as possible. Host families play a critical role in the JCC Maccabi Games experience, and the relationship between visiting athlete and host family is roundly considered one of the most meaningful aspects of the Games.
“When I look at everything in store for these Games, it’s clear that the hosting experience is going to play a large part in our community’s success,” said JCC Maccabi Games Director Jesse Rosen. “As someone who has spent most of his career traveling, I’m excited to bring all these communities together here in my home city – and to share that opportunity with our host families.”
With a newly designed milwaukeemaccabi.org preparing to launch, the Games team is now into the largest push to register host families and Games volunteers.
“It’s time,” said Kennedy Barnett, “for us to get as many people in Jewish Milwaukee to open up their homes for this week and this incredible experience. We’ve been asking for almost a year ‘Are you in the Games?’ Now is the time for every member of this community to say yes, visit the website, and register as a host family.”
Chad Tessmer is the Chief Marketing Officer of the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center.
1st published in the Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle