Inside Events: Maccabi USA
14 Nov, 2018By: Mary Helen Sprecher
An Interview with David Snyder, Executive Director
Maccabi USA endeavors, through sports, to perpetuate and preserve the American Jewish community by encouraging Jewish pride, strengthening Jewish bonds and by creating a heightened awareness of Israel and Jewish identity. The organization sponsors the United States Team to the World Maccabiah Games which are presented every four years. It also supports programs such as the JCC Maccabi Games which introduce American Jewish youth to their heritage by sponsoring sports-related programs and activities.
The volunteer organization seeks to enrich the lives of Jewish youth in the United States, Israel and the Diaspora through athletic, cultural and educational programs. It is a member of the Maccabi World Union and worldwide Maccabi movement. In addition, Maccabi USA supports programs that enhance participation of American Jewish youth with others like themselves throughout the world, supports athletic facilities and programs in Israel.
Sports Destination Management: Maccabi USA is tasked with selecting the athletes who will represent Team USA in the World Maccabiah Games. It sounds like an enormous responsibility.
David Snyder: It is and it’s only getting bigger. We have more and more applications each time so it’s very competitive.
SDM: How big is the U.S. delegation?
Snyder: Last time, it was 1,131 total. That includes individual athletes, coaches and staff.
SDM: How many different countries participated?
Snyder: In the last Games, 80 different countries were represented.
SDM: Meaning how many athletes all put together?
Snyder: There were 10,000 athletes, which made it the third-largest sporting event in the world the year it took place. Our U.S. delegation was the largest there.
SDM: Has it always been the largest?
Snyder: Well, no. At the first Maccabiah World Games in 1932, we had nine Americans participating.
SDM: Being a part of the Games at the international level must be an amazing experience for athletes who attend.
Snyder: We don’t use this expression lightly, but it really is life-changing. That’s what everyone tells us about the experience.
SDM: The competition, or the experience?
Snyder: The competition is obviously important but it was one part of the entire experience. People make friendships that last. They get to experience Israel, often for the first time. There are lots of misperceptions about what Israel is going to be like and people are often surprised to find out how integrated it is.
SDM: Is there any chance the World Maccabiah Games would come to the U.S.?
Snyder: They’re in Israel. There’s never any question about that. We do not host international competition as yet, but we may be putting on some sort of Winter Games.
SDM: From looking at the list of sports offered at the international level on the World Maccabiah Games website, it’s obvious there is a lot of variety. There are plenty of sports people recognize from the Olympics, like gymnastics and handball and track & field – but there are also a lot of others, like chess and bridge.
Snyder: Yes – there are a lot of different definitions of sports. There is a winner and a loser, there’s strategy, there is a score.
SDM: Are different sports added?
Snyder: Yes, lacrosse and chess were the most recent but we always hear a lot of different ideas put forth by people. It’s interesting to hear what is being suggested.
SDM: Is there a Paralympic version of the World Maccabiah Games, or is there a U.S. version of them offered by Maccabi USA?
Snyder: That’s an area where we’re looking to grow. We are committed to fielding a team on the Paralympic level. Another area we want to grow is our number of women participating. Right now, we’re just over 30 percent women. We’d like to change that.