BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Hundreds of student athletes from across the country descended on Birmingham Sunday for the 35th Annual JCC Maccabi Games.
Despite threats of violence that shook the Jewish Community earlier in 2017, Executive Director of the Birmingham Levite Jewish Community Center Betzy Lynch says they won’t be deterred.
“There’s never been a time when people haven’t been out to get Jews. It’s just part of who we are,” said Lynch. “This particular winter, we were subject to a series of bomb threats.”
Lynch said it disrupted the planning, but they pressed on and Sunday night they got to see their hard work realized.
Student athletes from across the country received cheers from the crowd as they walked into Bartow Arena. The 2017 Maccabi Games are being held for the first time in the event’s 35 year history in Birmingham, Alabama.
“I’ve lived here all my life and it’s probably the biggest thing to happen to the Birmingham Jewish Community in my lifetime,” said Bruce Sokol, Co-chairman of Maccabi Games.
Sokol said part of the mission of the games is to unite young Jewish people from around the world so that they can see the culture and diversity in their heritage.
The young athletes will compete in several different events at various locations across the city.
“The best venues that the city has to offer,” said Sokol.
And security won’t be relaxed. In fact, they asked us not to share the exact locations of the games until after the events are complete.
“The amount of security and support for the games is unparalleled because of what happened earlier this year and we’re very thankful to the city of Birmingham or everything they’ve done to make sure that all of our spectators are safe, all of our coaches and all of our kids and athletes are totally safe during these sets of games,” said Lynch.