The Maccabiah is Maccabi World Union's Flagship 

Maccabi World Union (Registered Amutah 580037158) is the largest and longest running Jewish sports organization spanning over five continents, more than 60 countries, 450 clubs, and 400,000 members. MWU is a Zionist organization that utilizes sports as a means to bring Jewish people of all ages closer to Judaism and Israel in addition to various informal educational activities in a manner that surpasses politics and sectarianism. Many Maccabi clubs serve as community centers and youth movements providing a diversity of educational, cultural, social and sports activities under one roof. In addition, Maccabi has its unique international signature activity in Jewish sports, the Maccabiah Games in Israel which take place every 4 years.

Maccabi World Union is comprised of six (6) confederations: Maccabi Australia (APA) | European Maccabi Confederation - EMC | Maccabi Israel | Maccabi Latin America - CLAM | Maccabi North America | Maccabi South Africa (SA)

Throughout the course of the year, confederations will conduct regional and inter-regional games, providing opportunities for bonding, sharing and meeting other Jewish communities throughout the world. The highlight program still remains the Maccabiah games, which brings Jews from all four corners of the world together in Israel every four years.Maccabi World Union´s administrative offices are located at Kfar Maccabiah in Ramat Gan, Israel. Nearly 70-80 percent of Maccabi is volunteer run. Ninety-two Executive members elected by the confederations run the global organization. The Maccabi worldwide family encompasses thousands of volunteers and friends, making it one of the largest global Jewish organizations with the message of unity and continuity.


In the Beginning There Was an Idea...

In the beginning was The Idea, conceived by a 15 year old Jewish youngster, Joseph Yekutieli, against the background of the 1912 World Olympics in Stockholm.  For the next ten years, he mulled it over until he formulated a detailed plan.  After another decade of intensive efforts, endless lobbying and tireless knocking on the doors of rulers, secretaries, government officials, authorities and close friends, the plan, which had appeared to many to be too daring and pretentious, took shape and became a reality.

In 1928 Yekutieli presented a proposal to Menachem Ussishkin, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Jewish National Fund, for the first convocation in Eretz Israel of Jewish athletes from all over the world, symbolically timed for the 1800th anniversary of the Bar Kochba rebellion. At that time the Maccabi Movement was in the process of setting up an internationally recognized body representing all Eretz Israel’s sports, thereby paving the way for official participation in important international events.  It was clear that the proposed Maccabiah could not be organized without the approval of the international sports associations, which accepted only recognized countries into their ranks.  Only in 1928, after the Eretz Israel Soccer Association was founded and recognized by most of the international bodies, was the way paved for the organization of the first Maccabiah in Eretz Israel.

The organizers decided that the Maccabiada, as the Games were then called, would be held for members of the World Maccabi Federation, at designated intervals, patterned along the Olympic Games.  The purpose of these worldwide Jewish competitions was to allow the various participating associations an opportunity to test their strength, prepare themselves for international and Olympic competitions and to glorify the sports achievements of Jewish youth. The path towards the Maccabiada, which, at the suggestion of the writer K. Silman, was Hebraized to Maccabiah, abounded with arguments and was strewn with stumbling blocks.  Alongside the differences of opinion which emerged in World Maccabi over the conduct and content of the Maccabiah, events in Eretz Israel took a grave turn, throwing doubt upon whether the games would ever take place.

On the 9th of Av 5689 (Summer of 1929) an anti-Jewish riot broke out at the Western Wall, spreading to all the Jewish communities in Eretz Israel with the exception of Tiberias.  Hundreds of Jews were murdered.  Maccabi members volunteered for the Haganah, which was revealed in all its weakness during the riots.  Lord Plumer, the High Commissioner in Eretz Israel was replaced by Sir John Chancellor of the British Colonial Service, who rapidly showed himself to be pro-Arab and blatantly hostile to Zionism.

The Maccabiah was finally held on the intended date.  Sir Arthur Wauchope had replaced Chancellor as High Commissioner in the autumn of 1931, beginning the ׂGolden Age׃ of the Jewish community in Eretz Israel.  Wauchope admired Jewish sports and the achievements of the Zionist movement in Eretz Israel and extended his patronage to the Maccabiah, on condition that it host Arab and English groups. 

Two delegations of Jewish motorcycle riders set out from Tel Aviv for a Propaganda Tour (today we use the term Promotion Tour) throughout Europe; the first in 1930 from Tel Aviv to Antwerp, and the second a year later from Tel Aviv to London.  Yekutieli himself participated in the delegation of young cyclists.  On the second tour which began on May 10th and ended on July 16th 1931, the riders covered 9,375 kilometers, from the Sinai desert through Cairo, Alexandria, Salonika, Gorna, Sofia, Belgrad, Novisad, Osijek, Zagreb, Vienna, Linz, Nuremburg, Frankfurt, Metz and Paris to London, Brighton, Leeds, Manchester, Glasgow, Birmingham and Beirut.  In all these cities, they announced the Maccabiah which would take place the following spring in Eretz Israel .  Masses of enthusiastic Maccabi members proclaimed their desire to participate in the ׂJewish Olympics.


The Maccabiah is the world’s largest Jewish athletic competition in the tradition and values of Maccabi, emphasizing the centrality of the State of Israel in the life of the Jewish people. The Maccabiah takes place every four (4) years in Israel - "the Jewish Olympics" as they are often called, are Maccabi World Union's largest and most famous enterprise.

The principal mission of the Maccabiah is to facilitate a worldwide gathering of young Jewish athletes in Israel, staging the highest possible levels of sports competitions, and strengthening their connection to the State of Israel and the Jewish people. Within the Maccabiah there are four separate competitions that take place; Open, Junior, Masters, and Paralympics. Junior games are open to any qualifying athlete aged 15-18. Masters are divided into a number of different age categories mostly to accommodate older competitors and the Open division is generally unlimited in age, subject to the governing international rules in each sport, and is intended for the best athletes from each delegation. In order to participate in the Maccabiah, athletes must represent a delegation. Delegations are formed by each of the Territorial Organizations that participate, i.e. France, Brazil, Germany, United States, Canada, Hungary, Australia, etc.

There are many Olympic gold medalists, world champions, and world record holders who have competed in the Maccabiah. They include, Mark Spitz, Lenny Krayzelburg, Jason Lezak, and Marilyn Ramenofsky (swimming); Mitch Gaylord, Abie Grossfeld, Ágnes Keleti, Valery Belenky and Kerri Strug (gymnastics); Ernie Grunfeld, Danny Schayes, (coaches); Larry Brown, Jordan Freed, Nat Holman and Dolph Schayes (basketball); Carina Benninga (field hockey); Lillian Copeland, Gerry Ashworth, and Gary Gubner (track and field); Angela Buxton, Brad Gilbert, Julie Heldman, Allen Fox, Nicolás Massú, and Dick Savitt (tennis); Dave Blackburn (softball); Angelica Rozeanu (table tennis); Sergei Charikov, Vadim Gutzeit and Mariya Mazina (fencing); Isaac Berger and Frank Spellman (weightlifting); and Fred Oberlander and Henry Wittenberg (wrestling); Madison Gordon-Lavaee (volleyball); Bruce Fleisher (golf); and Adam Bacher (cricket); Boris Gelfand and Judith Polgar (chess); Elizabeth Foody (interpretive dance); Aaron R. Schwid (bowling); Irwin Cotler (table tennis); Jonathan Bornstein (football), and Steve March Tormé (fast-pitch softball). Shawn Lipman who played in 1991 Rugby World Cup also competed several times in the Maccabiah.

We offer opportunities to tour the land of Israel and integrate all Maccabiah participants with the Israeli society and localities in the country; initiating and creating an unforgettable experience comprised of competitive sports, cultural events and lifetime memorable experiences. In addition to being competitive, the sports competitions are also dedicated to the values of fair play, mutual respect, victory of body, intellect, and the pursuit of excellence.
These spectacular sports and cultural extravaganzas uniting close to ten thousand Jewish athletes from all over the world in Israel every four years have a tremendous Zionist history, stretching back to the vivid imagination of a Jewish youngster in 1912 who made his dream come true.