MWU Chanukah Message Maccabi World Union: a century of Jewish-Zionist life
This year, the celebration of Chanukah, Chag HaMaccabim, the Festivity of the Maccabees, embraces the colors of our Maccabi Movement which celebrates 100 years as the World Movement that promotes a vibrant, present and relevant, inclusive and respectful Jewish-Zionist message in Jewish communities around the world.
The Maccabi Movement, with half a million members in more than 70 countries on all continents, celebrated its 100 years as a World Organization on August 29th, 2021. After the first Maccabi Club was established in 1895 in Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul, Turkey), the Maccabi Clubs grew and developed, incorporating the message of "muscular Judaism", thus interpreted by Max Nordau within the Zionist Movement as its first Vice-Chairman: “[w]e must renew our Youth [based on our past]: we will develop a broad chest, strong limbs, a courageous appearance. We will transform ourselves into a people of value."
It was on August 29, 1921, during the XII World Zionist Congress in Carlsbad, Czechoslovakia (modern-day Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic), when the strong network of Maccabi clubs in Europe, America, Africa, Asia and Australia became a World Union, maintaining the promotion of its Maccabi values: Jewish Continuity and Zionism and establishing the largest Jewish event in the world, the Maccabiah, in the Land of Israel (the first took place in 1932, 16 years before the founding of the State of Israel).
Although hundreds of Maccabi clubs were annihilated during the Holocaust, Maccabi World Union and its Continental Confederations managed to rebuild themselves in Europe and establish a foothold in all continents, providing meaning, socialization and commitment to Jewish life and the State of Israel in all Jewish communities, large and small. The once Maccabi "clubs" grew and developed into the largest Maccabi Jewish Community Centers in the world, with opportunities for the entire Jewish family. In 1929, Macabi World Union established a highly developed Youth Movement, Maccabi Tzair, that is today a global Network known as Macabi Tzair Olami, and a wide range of offers: workshops; courses; trainings for all ages; camps; educational programs in Israel; leadership training for all levels of leadership –educators, lay and professional leaders, from which the Maccabi Future Leaders Forum, MFLF, and the Maccabi CEO Forum emerge; Hasbara Seminars, in the permanent struggle for the recognition of the right to life itself for the State of Israel ... and, of course, the development of Sports. Maccabi is the center of all sports disciplines and social activities of the Jewish people around the world, with extraordinary achievements throughout its 100 years of glorious history- from Judith Deutsch of Hakoah Vienna in 1935 and Agnes Keleti of Maccabi Hungary in 1954 to Artem Dolgopyat from Maccabi Tel-Aviv, Gold Medalist Champion at the recent Tokyo Olympics. Of course… Maccabi World Union is also the organizer of the largest Jewish-Zionist event in the world and largest tourist event in Israel: the Maccabiah, with 10,000 participating athletes and more than 20,000 followers from around the world. The Maccabi Continental Confederations organize, in turn, the largest events in the Americas and EuroAsia: the Latin American Maccabi Confederation (CLAM) is responsible for the Pan-American Maccabi Games (with the exceptional Games in Mexico serving as the latest example), and Maccabi Europe leads the European Maccabi Games (the last memorable ones occurred in Hungary).
Maccabi captured the imagination of the most extraordinary Jewish leaders of the Modern Era. Theodor Herzl, the Father of Zionism (and whose best friend and lieutenant was Max Nordau), referring to Maccabi, said: “Get organized! Establish local groups, branches of societies of all kinds, men's associations next to women's, gymnastic associations, song groups, all with one direction - to Zion!" Albert Einstein, the greatest theorist of Science of all time, amazes us when he writes about our Maccabi: "Blessed be the work of Maccabi, trying to bring a counter-effect to the one-sided over-spirituality of the Jewish people." Sigmund Freud, the Father of Psychoanalysis, wrote to the Maccabi Authorities, months before his death (1939), "[y]ou may include my name in the [Maccabi World Union] Board." David Ben-Gurion, first Prime Minister of the State of Israel, declared, “Maccabi is undoubtedly the most important branch of the Zionist movement. Its importance is to breathe life into the stature of the Jewish people, weakened by so many years of exile.” These giants saw in the Maccabi Movement what many of us feel day after day: Maccabi is the most complete answer to the needs of the Jewish people. Maccabi is Jewish socialization, meeting, action, commitment, training and empowerment. Maccabi is also family, community, home and inclusion for all age groups. Maccabi is current and relevant ideology, respectful of the idiosyncrasies of each country and each Community. It is demanding, yes, of all of its affiliates the inclusion of its central ideological pillars: Jewish Continuity and Zionism- and in the singular understanding of those ideals by each Jewish Community.
Maccabi World Union, the Continental Maccabi Confederations and the Maccabi Territorial Organizations in each country were the founders of 8 kibbutzim; of Kfar HaMaccabiah (the MaccabiWorld Headquarters in Israel); of the city of Maccabim - today, a complex of 100,000 inhabitants in Maccabim-Reut-Modiin that plans to grow to a quarter of a million people; 56 Maccabi Tzair branches around the world, and more than 400 Jewish Community Centers and Clubs. This is not only infrastructure per se, but it is also about the Jewish-Zionist livelihood of the thousands and thousands of opportunities of our Movement through our cultural, traditional and inclusive Judaism in all its expressions and our connection to the State of Israel - recognized as the Center of our Maccabi self.
Maccabi World Union has joined the efforts of the State of Israel to defend the right to “lihiot am jofshi beartzeinu, Eretz Tzion viYirushalaim ”, to “be free in our Land: the Land of Zion and Jerusalem” – what we sing in the Israeli Anthem, “Hatikvah”. The delegitimization of the very existence of the State of Israel is a direct challenge to the Maccabi ideology, which conceives Zionism as the expression of the redeemed life of a people harassed by 18 centuries of brutal persecution, expulsion and genocide. This ideological demand already appears in the very name of the Movement, since the term "Maccabi" urges, in its Hebrew acronym, to assume responsibility for the very life of the Jewish People and for their Historic Land - the Land of Israel and the Jewish State.
Does Maccabi have today, “an ideal to follow,” as it did in the times of its ideological Father, Dr. Max Nordau? My answer is a resounding YES.
Our task is to ensure that each Maccabi member:
- conceives himself/herself as an integral part of Klal Israel, a member of the Jewish people (a group of brothers and sisters) scattered throughout the world and centered in Medinat Israel.
- promotes Jewish continuity and combats assimilation.
- studies, inquires about and knows the Maccabi ideology.
- connects to the religion-tradition-nation levels of the Jewish People.
- recognizes the centrality of Medinat Israel in the present and future of the Jewish People.
- demands a permanent remembrance of the Shoah.
- believes in democracy, pluralism and tolerance as essential values.
- identifies with the Maccabi club/JCC to which he/she belongs and with the Maccabi Movement in general.
During July 2022, tens of thousands of Jews from 80 countries and all continents will arrive in Israel, and Maccabi World Union will once again put its ideals into action in the greatest expression of Zionism and Jewish Peoplehood on the planet: the 21st Maccabiah.
We at Maccabi World Union greet you with enormous joy on this unique 100th anniversary, maintaining our commitment to provide meaningful connections between the Jewish Communities of the world and the Jewish State. We are always working for the promising, safe and happy future of our People everywhere.
RABBI CARLOS TAPIERO
Maccabi World Union
Photo courtesy of RABBI CARLOS TAPIERO
Maccabi World Union