A multi-day, international athletic competition is coming to Cherry Hill this August.
It’s not the Olympics; it’s the 2014 Jewish Community Center Maccabi Games.
Preparations are underway for the games, scheduled for Aug. 10 through Aug. 15.
The JCC Maccabi Games gathers Jewish athletes from about 32 JCCs across the United States and in three foreign countries for a week of athletic competitions. Some of the sports included are baseball, basketball, soccer, track, swimming, tennis and dancing.
Cherry Hill is hosting the games for the first time since 1999. Right now, the Katz JCC is in the preparation stages.
While not quite as grand as the Olympics, the amount of preparation needed is a huge undertaking. Rob Kiewe, the director for the 2014 JCC Maccabi Games, said organizers are trying to get as many volunteers lined up as soon as possible.
“It takes a village to pull something off like this,” he said. “We need all of the assistance we can get.”
Kiewe said he has gotten a lot of positive feedback from people who want to volunteer, but haven’t signed up yet. Because of the magnitude of the event, community members must sign up in advance to have an active role.
“Just in conversations with people and all the pieces of the JCC, I happen to know at least there are 500 to 1,000 people interested in volunteering, but haven’t signed up yet.”
Community members from any background are able to act as volunteers. The JCC is also looking for local Jewish families to host a minimum of two visiting athletes during the week of the games.
Currently, Kiewe estimates about 580 of approximately 1,200 visiting athletes have housing. The host family aspect of the event is essential to making the week a success.
“Some of the relationships that are built between these athletes and these host families, that’s what it’s all about,” Kiewe said. “Empty nesters can do it, people with young kids can do it. Those little kids will literally fall in love with these athletes.”
Participants are not just from the United States. With delegations from Mexico, Great Britain and Israel, families could be hosting someone from beyond their own borders.
JCC officials have been securing venues in and around Cherry Hill to host the events. So far, feedback has been very positive, with municipal and school officials working with the JCC on scheduling and other logistics.
“We’ve worked with the Board of Education and the local schools directly,” Kiewe said. “We’ve gotten nothing but complete cooperation with everybody.”
Security is also a huge part of hosting the Maccabi games. Everyone from local police departments to the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security is involved in the planning stages to create a safe and secure environment.
Preparation for the Maccabi Games will continue through the summer and right up to the event’s Opening Ceremony. The Katz JCC is still accepting volunteers and host families. For more information on how to get involved, visit www.katzjccmaccabi.org. The home page includes links for prospective athletes, volunteers and host families.