Layne Held: How You Can Help Make The JCC Maccabi Games Successful

    Photo is of part of Birmingham’s JCC Maccabi Games delegation from the 2016 Games.
    The JCC Maccabi Games Need Your Time, Commitment
    The following was written by the JCC Maccabi Games Co-Chair Layne Held. 
    By Layne Held 
    The JCC Maccabi Games are less than 60 days away. Twenty-nine delegations will be in Birmingham from July 30 – August 4.  Delegations from all across the US, Ukraine and Israel will join us, and we are expecting a total of 3,500 visitors to “The Magic City,” as Birmingham is so lovingly nicknamed.
    Nine hundred teens will compete in various sports across our city, engage in numerous social activities, and participate in an educational/community service program specific to Birmingham.  It’s the “Jewish Olympics” for teens and such a fun-filled week for everyone involved.
    Our Leadership Team and LJCC staff have been hard at work for over 15 months to make this successful.  Venues are secured.  Fundraising is complete thanks to the broader Birmingham Community.  The Birmingham delegation will be the largest it has ever been.  The table is set for an extraordinary week.  Hopefully, the buzz has made its way to you.  Our LJCC, Temple Emanu-El and Temple Beth-El have all sent out information on ways to get involved.  Now, it’s time for our Jewish Community to rally together and join in on the fun.
    Betzy Lynch, our current LJCC Executive Director, will be leaving Birmingham shortly after the Games are complete.  I told Betzy the greatest gift she could have given our Jewish Community is the chance to host the Maccabi Games.  “A once in a generation event” has been our tagline.  It’s one we have used tirelessly and one we will continue to use.
    Our Jewish Community as we know it is changing.  We are in the midst of experiencing turnover at Temple Emanu- El, Temple Beth-El, LJCC, and changes also will eventually take place at the BJF. We will not survive without taking risks and challenging ourselves like never before.  The JCC Maccabi Games is the first of many of risks and challenges — we are one of the smallest cities to have ever hosted the Games.  Betzy knew our Jewish Community needed this.  She knew we needed to challenge ourselves.  She knew we could do it.  We can.  We will.
    However, the only way we can and will is if our Jewish Community steps up.  The beauty of this event is that it does not matter which synagogue you belong to.  It does not matter if you even belong to a synagogue or the LJCC.  It is one of the few events our Jewish Community will ever host that is all encompassing.
    What we’re asking of you is your time.  We are asking that you consider playing some kind of role in this incredible event.  If you feel like you are being inundated with emails from LJCC, temples, friends, etc., that’s our intent.  Thank you to those who are sending these.  Keep it up.  We want to be sure everyone understands the magnitude of the Games and the ample opportunities to volunteer.
    We want our Jewish Community to experience this because it such a rare event for us to host.  Every aspect of this event is fun.  Opening ceremonies, sports competition, evening social events, community service day, closing ceremonies.  It’s non-stop fun.  Be a part of it.  This marks the 35th year of the JCC Maccabi Games, a tradition that spans generations.  The Games would not still exist if they had not been such a rousing success.
    It’s our turn to carry the torch.  We want our Jewish Community to be the face of this event because that is how it should be.  Most of the 3,500 visitors would never have a reason to visit Birmingham.  We are giving them that reason.  Let’s make it count so they visit again — so their children and grandchildren consider making Birmingham home one day.  First impressions are everything, and this is our first impression to most of our visitors.
    So, the question remains.. what exactly do we need from our Jewish Community?  We need 300 homes.  300 Jewish homes.  I’m here to be the first to tell you that it will be a commitment to house kids, but it is an integral part of the Maccabi experience.  I can’t thank you enough to those who have already registered.
    For those who have not registered, please strongly consider doing so. It is important to understand that you will NOT be required to be on call 24 hours a day. Yes, you will have to provide a place for them to sleep; Yes, you will need to provide or arrange for transportation in the morning and at night. Yes, you will need to provide dinner to them ONE evening; Yes, you will be able to show our visitors how warm this Jewish Community is. (Please note, our Leadership Team and our LJCC Staff are happy to help make special arrangements should you need some help with transportation.).
    We also need volunteers.  This requires some time and effort from you, time that many of us don’t have.  However, volunteering is the most fun aspect of the Games, and it is critical our Jewish Community is front and center during the week.  There are over 1,200 volunteer shifts  during the week, and we would like you to consider taking at least two shifts.  These shifts typically last between three to four hours so we are not asking everyone to take a week off from work.  Find a couple shifts that work for you, sign up, and recruit your friends to do it with you.  That’s what makes this fun.  Be a part of this “once in a generation” experience.
    How do you register?  Visit the JCC Maccabi website here.  Then click on “Host Family” to register to house athletes or “Volunteer” to register to volunteer.  If you are having trouble, call the LJCC at 205-879-0411 and ask for Zack Wise or Monika Singletary.  Feel free to email them as well at or  They can gladly walk you through the process and answer any questions.
    We hope you will join us in making this event one our Jewish Community will never forget.  It promises to be an experience of a lifetime!

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