Levite Jewish Community Center
Executive Director Betzy Lynch phrased it well in an email she sent out Friday morning
“After nearly two years of planning the JCC Maccabi Games are finally here,” wrote Betzy. “Our first delegation of athletes arrived from Israel yesterday. This evening, 120 more will come from Israel, Ukraine and San Diego. On Sunday, the rest of the 896 athletes will arrive with over 164 coaches and Delegation Heads from all over the world.”
Added Betzy: “We are so proud to have been honored with the opportunity to showcase our incredible community and city to the world.”
Friday afternoon, LJCC staff members were deployed in the Center’s gym in a meticulously organized way, welcoming delegations with some good old fashioned Southern hospitality and moving them quickly to an orientation session as host family members waited to meet the teens who would be staying with them.
Just about everyone involved with the Birmingham Jewish community who is able to do so has agreed to host these teen visitors for a weeklong extravaganza. Highlights will include athletic competition, community service activities, special events and, most importantly, an opportunity for these teens to get to know one another, celebrate their Jewish identity and build new and lasting friendships.
Our entire Jewish community was buzzing on Friday getting ready to welcome visiting delegations who will be showcased tonight at the opening ceremony at Bartow Arena at the University of Alabama-Birmingham.
At Publix and Magic Muffins Friday morning, two locales on Overton Road frequented heavily by our Jewish community, members of the community could be seen bustling about, stocking up on food and goodies in anticipation of hosting teen athletes in their homes.People were comparing notes, telling one another about how many teens would be staying with them and where they were coming from.
Saturday night at the Summit shopping center a large group of Maccabi athletes from Ukraine, Israel and California, among other places, hung out with one another and host families. Everyone was excitedly greeting one another knowing that this coming week would be something special. “Birmingham is so beautiful and so green,” said one of the Israeli coaches. “And you can tell the Jewish community is very caring and close-knit.”
It all was an uplifting buzz to say the least and that buzz will hit a highlight at tonight’s Opening Ceremonies.
As the delegates walk in, city by city, Birmingham Jewish community member Dr. Robert Levin will publicly welcome them, paying tribute to the great Jewish communities they represent. (Robert, a well-known Birmingham pediatrician is also the announcer at football games for the University of Alabama marching band.)
It will be an emotional evening — an event of magnitude and surprises in and of itself — and a great way to start this historic week in Birmingham.