MACCABI WORLD UNION
World Union is a Jewish and Zionist Movement providing extensive sports,
educational, social and cultural activities based on the centrality of
Israel in modern Jewish life. Led by democratically-elected officials
at all levels, Maccabi is open to Jews of all affiliations and is a
general Zionist Union with no allegiance to any political Party
viewpoint. Active in Jewish Communities worldwide - more than 400,000
Jews in 400 institutions of 60 countries in 5 Continents, Maccabi is
organized through territorial and regional organizations.
MACCABI IN THE RHYTHM OF TIME
originates from the establishment in 1895 of a "Gymnastics Club" in
Constantinople (now Istanbul), formed by expatriate Jews from Europe
excluded from membership in the similar club organized by Gentile but
anti-Semitic expatriates. Instead of accepting their social exclusion
from the new and modern fad for games, exercise, fitness and health, the
conceptual revolution begun by the founders of that first Jewish club,
"Constantinople Maccabi Society", spread rapidly across the Bosphorus to
other centers of Jewish life in the Mediterranean countries and in
Eastern and Central Europe.
landmark year of Theodor Herzl's First Zionist Congress in 1897, the
“Shimshon Gymnastics Society" was founded in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. "Shimshon"
of course, is "Samson" in Hebrew; the names of all the early clubs drew
on the rich Biblical heritage of Jewish strength, courage and physical
prowess. Zionist aspirations were equally evident: in 1898, the famous
“Bar-Kochba Berlin” society was founded in the German capital, conducted
and managed entirely in Hebrew, the language of the Zionist revival.
flourishing in many places, regional and territorial fraternity and
organization followed quickly. The National Maccabi Federation
germinated in Bulgaria in 1903, and in the same year all societies
united into “The Jewish Gymnasts Organization”, blossoming by 1921 into
the “World Maccabi Federation”, and in full flower as “Maccabi World
Union” in 1968. In 1906, as every collector of early Eretz Yisrael
postcards knows, the first seed sprouted in the heart of the Zionist
endeavor in Jaffa with the founding by Dr. Leo Cohen and Yehezkel Hankin
of the “Rishon Le’Zion” Gymnastic Association.
United in 1912
as the “Maccabi Federation for Gymnastics and Sports in Eretz Israel”,
there were Societies all over the Yishuv of Zionist settlement in
Turkish Palestine --- Be’er Tuvia, Gedera, Zichron Ya’akov, Haifa, Ness
Ziona, Ekron, Rishon Le’Zion and Rehovot. By the high summer of 1914,
on the eve of the First World War, the Jewish Gymnasts Organization
already included 30 societies organized into 6 regions: German,
West-Austrian, Borbon-Galitzia, Bulgaria, Turkey and Eretz Israel.
THE ESTABLISHMENT OF
MACCABI WORLD UNION
immense dislocation and upheaval of the First World War, a board meeting
of Jewish Sports Society leaders at the 12th Zionist Congress
in Karlsbad, Czechoslovakia in August 1921 formally established the
“World Maccabi Federation”. Dr. Heinrich Kuhn of Germany was elected
President, and Maccabi operated as an integral part of the World Zionist
Movement, with headquarters in Vienna moving in 1927 to Brno,
Czechoslovakia, and in 1929 to Berlin, Germany. By that time, under the
energetic leadership of people like Heinrich Loewe, there were 22
Regions and over 100,000 members.
The rise of
Nazism and that unique horror of the 1940's, the Holocaust, took a
terrible toll in Jewish lives. Many of the early Maccabi Clubs in Europe
were lost in the Shoah. With the establishment of Israel, Headquarters
moved from its temporary home in London, England to the new Jewish
State. Maccabi had spread with emigration far beyond Europe into Jewish
Communities in the New World, to North and South America, to South
Africa and Australia; there was a great growth of Maccabi institutions
in the Free World. Everywhere except behind the Iron Curtain that
divided post-Second World War Europe into the Democratic West and the
Communist East, Maccabi flourished. Latin America saw particularly
dramatic growth. Towards the end of the 1980's, connections with
Jews in East European countries were renewed after decades of isolation;
the Movement’s activities were revived everywhere after the Soviet
collapse, and today there are clubs on the European mainland from Spain
to Khabarovsk in Russia's Far East.
Union encompasses hundreds of Jewish Communities on 5 continents.
Activities in nearly 60 countries are grouped in 6 Confederations:
Maccabi Israel, the European Maccabi Confederation (EMC), Maccabi North
America, Maccabi Latin America (CLAM), Maccabi South Africa and Maccabi
Australia. About 400,000 Maccabi members are active in a variety of
about 400 Maccabi and Maccabi-affiliated institutions across the globe,
encompassing a great variety of community centers, youth movements,
informal education, cultural and social activities, and Maccabi's unique
international signature activity in Jewish life: Sports, mass Maccabi
Games and the Maccabiah in Israel.
GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
twin and interlinked ideals are Jewish Continuity and Zionism.
them, Maccabi World Union set main goals and objectives:
Deepening Jewish–Zionist education focused on the centrality of the
State of Israel among youngsters and adults.
Encouraging Aliyah to Israel.
absorption of new immigrants in Israel.
Diaspora Jewish youth into Jewish heritage and tradition.
Strengthening connections between Jewish Communities and Israel.
Cultivating and encouraging sports activities, on the principle of
“A Sound Mind in a Sound Body”.
Encouraging establishment and development of Maccabi Clubs and
Jewish Community Centers for physical training and educational,
cultural and social activities.
Organizing the Maccabiah in Israel.
Organizing courses, seminars and educational programs in Israel and
in the Diaspora.
Establishing, managing and operating institutions, organizations and
economic systems to promote our goals, and supporting existing
complexes such as Kfar Maccabiah.
Cultivating social and sports connections between Maccabi members in
Israel and Maccabi members in the Diaspora.
THE MACCABI IDEA
IN JEWISH AND ZIONIST THOUGHT
Max Nordau, Herzl's most prominent convert to Zionism in its early
days, was the first to Maccabi activity in philosophical terms.
These are the
crucial passages from his celebrated Address to the 2nd
Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland, in 1898:
We must recreate a muscled and strong Jewry!
Yes! Recreate! Our history attests to the fact that in the past such
a Jewry existed.
For days on end we occupy ourselves in inflicting death on our
That is not the right approach. Others have tortured our bodies, and
quite successfully. They have turned the Ghetto Jewry of the Middle Ages
into a miserable and wretched people, haggard and helpless. As for
ourselves, we would willingly have given up this favor. We would have
chosen to strengthen our own body, rather than killing it.
Now our distress is gone and our will is free. No one will prevent us
from engaging in our physical recuperation. In our old age, we will
rejuvenate. With our chests wide, our limbs strong, our sight valiant,
we shall be brave men!
Sport is of great educational importance. It has to heal us not only
in body, but in mind as well. It has to entrust us with confidence in
our strength. Some of our foes hate us for our seeming self-confidence.
But who but us knows how far from true this is: tranquil confidence in
our self-vigor is what we actually lack.
We can see a new healthy Jewish lad growing. Indeed, he is still far
away from those Jews who fought the heroes of Greece and the Barbarians
of the North in circuses. But in spirit, this lad stands higher than
the Jewish victor who renounces his Judaism. Long live Jewish Sport!
May the branches of Jewish sport grow and flourish!”
figures championed Maccabi activity and the Maccabiot;
here is a
brief selection of quotations:
Theodor Herzl – the Father of Political Zionism
“Friends and brothers – wake and arise! We are in need of your
assistance, not only your enthusiasm, rising in gatherings and then
vanishing into thin air. Get organized! Establish local groups, branches
of societies of all kinds, men’s associations alongside those of women,
gymnastics associations, singing groups, all with the mark of Zion.”
“We are joined together, friends. We need you. Train not your spirit
alone, but your muscles as well. Stand strong and upright and study
diligently and enthusiastically. We will have need of your strength and
“Young Jews” was till now a derogatory nickname. Make it an honorable
Albert Einstein – a perfect mind
“Blessed is Maccabi’s work, intending to bring about a counter-effect to
the one-sided over-spirituality of the Jewish people. It is especially
praiseworthy, for we are still so very far away from that other side”.
Sigmund Freud – the Father of Psychoanalysis
"If you want my name for your [Maccabi World Union] Patronage Council,
you may have it. It is the least I can do for you and I am sorry I can
do no more in my actual condition. Yours with high regards" (in a letter
of February 16, 1939 – Freud died September 23, 1939).
Chaim Nachman Bialik – Israel's National Poet
“Of all the meetings I had with intellectuals in Lodz, I was most happy
and impressed by the gymnastics exercises I saw in the Maccabi
David Ben-Gurion – First Prime Minister of the State of Israel
“Maccabi is, no doubt, a most important branch of the Zionist movement.
Its importance is in infusing life into the physical stature of the
Jewish people, weakened over the many years of exile. Jews returning to
their homeland and those born here, must achieve spiritual and
intellectual strength. However, our existence in the land of our
forefathers equally requires physical strength”.
Weizman – First President of the State of Israel
“50 years of arduous work in the fields of sports and Zionism are
praiseworthy on this day of your gathering. You, Maccabeans, have
brought a new spirit to the people, defending its honor and existence.
Your branches throughout the Diaspora have turned to meeting places for
Chief Rabbi Meir Hai Uziel – Sephardi
Rabbi of the
of Palestine (1939
“One of the most comforting sights is the pilgrimage of our sons and
daughters, heroes of the nation, the Hashmonaim and Maccabim, in
jubilant masses to their homeland”.
Meir Dizengoff – First Mayor of Tel Aviv
“It is a worthy phenomenon that the young generation of the people of
Israel gathers from all ends of the world, for physical training and
sports, which mark the unity of all branches of our people, all aspiring
to one aim”.
Israel Rokach – Mayor of Tel Aviv
“The 1st Maccabiah saw hundreds; the 2nd Maccabiah
saw thousands. Let us hope that tens of thousands will join us at the 3rd
Maccabiah. The road is still long to our full redemption, the dream of
our revival is but in its beginning. But if this is our youth, full of
life, might and strength, we shall not despair or lament. We shall live
to see our full redemption!”
Henrietta Szold – creator of the Hadassah Organisation
“Your expressions, your goals and your achievements all declare one
thing: you have discovered, among the riches of the spirit of Israel,
one forsaken tenet: a mind which wishes to be brave, healthy and noble,
had better be in a sound, fit and upright body”.
Major Aharon, Commander of the “Maccabi Company”
in the British Army during World War II
“The dream has turned into reality, into a new symbol of redemption.
To a man, Jewish youth has risen, to revive its people and start anew”.
Ezra Ichilov, Knesset Member, one of Maccabi – Eretz Israel Leaders
“Maccabi movement will live to be the sole national movement of the
Jewish people. If in its early days it seemed a historic privilege, the
future will render it a historic dictate.”
THE MEANING OF THE NAME “MACCABI”
As mentioned before, since the
establishment of that first club, Maccabi institutions went by many
evocative titles: “Shimshon”, “HaKoach” (strength), “HaGibor”
(the hero), “Bar-Kochva”, “Maccabi” and others. It was not
easy to find a single name for a Movement uniting all these clubs.
Eventually, the name MACCABI was chosen – symbolizing many of the
qualities that Maccabi members around the world share and aspire to.
In his speech to the Maccabi Association
in Odessa, Russia in 1917,
Menachem Ussishkin with great
clarity described those qualities:
child of Europe, a scholar of Roman Civilization, holds sacred and
extols the adage: “A sound mind in a sound body”. We, the
children of Israel read -- as is well-known --from right to left, hold
sacred also the opposite of that saying: “A sound body -- for a sound
mind”. A “sound mind” – that is decisive; a “sound body”
– that is the means. And you have implemented that! You did not choose
for yourselves the name “Samson”, the symbol only of physical
strength; you chose “Maccabee”, symbolizing the power of the
spirit. The Maccabees are renowned not for their physical prowess, but
for their strategic brilliance. Many of these acts of bravery resound
through the history of humankind’s interaction with the Hebrews. The
Maccabees are uniquely and hugely famous for the strength and daring of
MACCABI has 3 derivations:
כמוך באלים י'ה'” - the acronyms of Mi
chamocha baelim Hashem, "Who is like you, Lord?"
signifying the relationship between the people of Israel and its
"מתתיהו כהן בן יוחנן"
– the acronyms of Matityahu Ben Yochanan, the father of the
Hasmoneans mentioned in Ussishkin’s address.
= the Hebrew word Makevet = a hammer. The 3rd meaning of
Maccabi (which in Hebrew can also be written with the letter
ק – מקבי),
is a reminder of Judah Maccabee, or Yehudah ben Matityahu, the great
warrior of the Hashmonean Dynasty who hammered the enemies of
MACCABI WORLD UNION EDUCATION –
At the Maccabi Congress
held in 1929 in Czechoslovakia, it was decided to establish a youth
movement called Maccabi Tzair - “Young Maccabi”. Its members learned
scouting principles and outdoor skills and had cultural and sports
activities. The objective was to establish an educational branch to
inculcate youngsters with Jewish, Zionist and Maccabi values.
“Maccabi Tzair” opened in Eretz Israel in 1933 with branches founded in
Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Metulla, Rishon Le-Zion, Rehovot, Gedera, Zichron
Ya’acov, Rosh Pina and Haifa. Many tens of thousands of Jewish and
Israeli youth have graduated to responsible adulthood and civic
involvement through Maccabi Tzair.
THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE STATE OF
ISRAEL AND THE ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES
in Eretz Israel played an important part in the establishment of the
State. Its members were found in all three armed Underground Movements,
the Hagana, Etzel and Lechi. During the War of Independence, 6 Maccabi
Tzair platoons served in the Palmach before the IDF was formed as the
army of the Jewish State. Over the years, Maccabi Tzair has undergone
many changes of focus, always as a response to the most important needs
of the hour. Sports activity was an educational tool of great importance
to the pre-State Zionist endeavor, and remains so, integrated with
community service, the hallmark of the modern Maccabi Tzair.
A large group
of Maccabi Tzair members enlisted and served together as a Company in
the British Army in World War II, commanded by a Jewish officer; they
fought the Nazis on the Italian front, and after the war helped tens of
thousands of Jewish Holocaust survivors reach Palestine. It is a fine
tradition still maintained: Maccabi Tzair has currently has four units
serving in the IDF's Nahal Corps, and two more will join them in the
very near future.
MACCABI TZAIR IN ISRAEL AND IN THE
DIASPORA, AND MACCABI YOUTH ORGANIZATIONS WORLWIDE
in Israel is part of the Maccabi Israel Movement. Prior to their
enlistment in the IDF, Maccabi Tzair graduates together give a year of
service in poor communities, assisting residents in education and,
cultural activity, fighting poverty and more. The Movement's philosophy
is an exact mirror of Maccabi ideals in practice: Zionist, educational,
non-partisan, ready to serve. Maccabi Tzair and Maccabi-affiliated
youth organizations are active in North America, Latin America and
Europe. They constitute a leading force in informal Jewish education in
dozens of countries, with tens of thousands of young members led by
trained counselors, of whom nearly 2000 from 20 countries graduated
through MWU Education Department seminars in the past 18 months.
THE MACCABI ZIONIST DEED IN ERETZ
has shown its commitment with the Zionist idea settling in Eretz Israel:
trained groups in Germany and Czechoslovakia towards their immigration
to Israel. Maccabi Tzair members founded several kibutzim:
Kfar Ha’Maccabi (in the Zevulun valley), Ma’ayan Zvi, Matzuba, Kfar
Rupin, Dovrat, Sdeh Nechemia (former Choliot), Kfar Ha’choresh and
2. KFAR MACCABIAH
Founded in 1956 and named after the late
MWU Chairman Aron Netanel, Kfar Maccabiah – "The Maccabiah Village" –
was established to be the heart of the worldwide Movement, its
headquarters situated in Israel. The 20-acre complex is superbly
located in the Dan Region, and today includes a Hotel, Convention &
Events Center and one of Israel's largest Sports & Leisure Clubs. Many
hundreds of Diaspora youngsters visiting Israel on study tours and
leadership development programs enjoy its facilities. All Maccabi World
Congresses take place at Kfar Maccabiah, in halls and other facilities
named in honor of prominent Movement activists and families. During
Maccabiah 2005, as it has for all Maccabiot since it was established,
Kfar Maccabiah will again meet the great challenge set by its founders,
the heads of the Movement in the 1950’s: to be the center of, and home
to, the Movement and the Maccabiah Games. It has also truly become the
pride of Maccabi, the place the whole Movement knows and loves as
residential settlement of Maccabim is the realization of one of the most
important visions of Maccabi World Union. Led by Dr. Israel Peled, then
Chairman of the Movement, Maccabim was founded in 1984 and populated by
1986. Many residents of Maccabim are MWU stalwarts, including Yigal
Carmi, the current MWU Chairman; Amir Peled, MWU Honorary Secretary;
Yoav Tal, MWU former Director General and Zion Yahav. A Maccabi
Educational Center was founded in Maccabim to serve Maccabi World Union
and other organizations. One of Maccabi Tzair's largest chapters is
based there, and 740 families live there today.
MACCABI'S EDUCATIONAL VARIETY
Union conducts extensive sports, educational and cultural activities.
Its achievements in mass sports and mass event organization are
unparalleled in the Jewish World and acknowledged in Israel and abroad
by world, continental and regional sports governing bodies.
and culture, Maccabi's circa 400 institutions worldwide offer a vast
variety of activities: rikudei am, theatre, workshops on Jewish
sources & contemporary texts, and a variety of activities for families
and youngsters, in addition to Maccabi Tzair and the Maccabi Youth
Organizations' activities. Many Maccabi centers are, in a sense,
“comprehensive community factories” fulfilling most of the needs of the
local Jewish communities.
activities are coordinated by MWU's Department of Education and the
Regional Departments from the World Headquarters at Kfar Maccabiah. On
an international level, these Departments supply ideological tools. They
also run advanced seminars, workshops and in-service training for
counselors, coordinators, professional and lay leaders, and
Short and long
term programs are held for youth and students, as well as programs for
adults and families. Advanced training adapted to various regional and
communal needs, are also conducted worldwide.
Department is also involved in developing programs to combat
anti-Semitism, Holocaust education and much else tailored to specific
requests from various Jewish communities. The Movement's educational
vision is to maintain a network enabling all Maccabi members to share
and enjoy the great depth of creativity, accumulated knowledge and rich
pedagogic experience of all Maccabi institutions around the world.
“THE IDEAL MACCABEAN”
Sketched here, a portrait
of the “Ideal Maccabean”. He or she:
Feels an integral part of the Jewish
people, scattered around the
looking to Israel as the center of modern Jewish life.
Encourages the continuity of the Jewish
people and opposes total
that erases all meaningful trace of Jewish identity.
Enquires seriously and meticulously into
his or her Jewish
characteristics, both in the framework of his or her beliefs,
and deeds, and into ideological and ethical content of
Distinguishes between the various
components of Jewish Culture -
- religion (its
rules, ideals, aspirations and values), language,
art – and finds his or her place in the triangle of religion-
Recognizes the centrality of the State of
Israel in the present and in the future of the Jewish people, and
unconditionally supports the right of the Jewish People to an
independent national existence in Eretz Israel.
Deals with the theological / existential
questions deriving from the Holocaust, that unprecedented episode in the
History of the Jews and Mankind.
Believes in democracy, pluralism and
tolerance, and recognizes
importance for an open and alert dialogue amongst Jews and
Nations of the World.
Identifies him or herself with the
institution he or she belongs to and with Maccabi World Union, so as to
promote a feeling of close fellowship with Maccabi members anywhere else
in the world.