The 3rd Maccabiah Games was the first to be held at the Ramat Gan Stadium

Ahead of the 21st Maccabiah Games, explore photos from ‘Jewish Olympics’ history

Since 1932, thousands of Jewish athletes descend upon Israel every four years to compete in the world's largest Jewish athletic competition; Now competition returns after a pandemic-induced hiatus

Jacob Gurvis/JTA |
Published: 07.07.22, 14:18
Hanukkah isn’t the only time Jews around the world celebrate the legacy of Hasmonean hero Judah Maccabee.
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  • Every four years, 10,000 or so athletes — mostly Jews, plus Israelis of any religion — descend upon Israel for the Maccabiah Games, the world’s largest Jewish athletic competition, sometimes called the Jewish Olympics.
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    The 3rd Maccabiah Games was the first to be held at the Ramat Gan Stadium
    (Photo: Jacob Rozner, KKL–JNF Photo Archive)
    Run by the World Maccabi Union, the competition began in 1932 and includes athletes from roughly 80 countries. Here is a JTA dispatch from the first Maccabiah Games, in April 1932.
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    Gymnast trains at the 2nd Maccabiah Games
    (Photo: Zultan Kugler, KKL–JNF Photo Archive)
    In 1938, the third iteration of the competition was postponed until 1950 due to World War II and Israel’s War of Independence.
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    Athletes line up at the 3rd Maccabiah Games in Ramat Gan
    (Photo: Edgar Hirshbein, KKL–JNF Photo Archive)
    The competition then took place every four years from 1953 through 2017. The 21st Maccabiah Games, scheduled for the summer of 2021, was pushed back due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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    Gymasts train at the 2nd Maccabiah Games
    (Photo: Zultan Kugler, KKL–JNF Photo Archive)
    The Games are split into four divisions based on age and ability — open, juniors, masters, and paralympics — and feature dozens of sports.
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    The torch is lit at the 3rd Maccabiah Games in Ramat Gan
    (Photo: Izik Eiznshtark, KKL–JNF Photo Archive)
    Jewish sports legends like Mark Spitz, Agnes Keleti, Kerri Strug, Isaac Berger and others have participated over the years.
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    Athletes line up at the inaugural Maccabiah Games in 1932
    (Photo: Miriam Shamir, KKL–JNF Photo Archive)
    The 21st Maccabiah Games open Wednesday, July 12, and will run through July 26.
    Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael – Jewish National Fund, a Maccabiah partner, has shared with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency some images from its Maccabiah photo archive. It’s quite a trip down Jewish sports memory lane.

    Content distributed by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency news service.
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