Tucson J to field team for JCC Maccabi Games

Oren Riback, wearing his silver and bronze medals for breaststroke and backstroke from the 2000 Maccabi Games held in Tucson, still uses the gym bag he received as a teen athlete. (Chase Cohen, Tucson Jewish Community Center)

The Tucson Jewish Community Center will return from a three-year hiatus at the JCC Maccabi Games, sending a delegation of teen athletes to the games that will be held July 24-29 in Columbus, Ohio. Over the past few years, the games conflicted with Tucson school schedules, although a few local athletes were able to play with other cities’ delegations.

Children and Youth Assistant Director Oren Riback will lead the 2016 delegation. Riback is an alumni member of the Tucson delegation; he competed in swimming when the Tucson J hosted the 2000 Maccabi Games.

Judaic values and community service projects are an integral part of the games. “It is our hope,” says Riback, “that Maccabi athletes will not only exhibit growth in physical prowess but also personal development, that they will come to see themselves as part of a greater Jewish community and make connections that will last a lifetime.” Riback speaks fondly of friends from the St. Louis delegation that his family hosted.

Athletes ages 13-16 in almost any sport may participate with the Tucson delegation this summer. The J will be fielding a boys’ basketball team coached by Jordan Hitchye, but organizers hope to bring swimmers, tennis players, soccer players, golfers and other athletes. If the J is unable to field a full team for a particular sport, Riback explains, the delegation can combine with athletes from other cities.

Parents and other interested adults can get involved as coaches, mentors, advisors or chaperones, says Riback. “In the spirit of l’dor v’dor, we have a real chance to uplift a generation of Tucson youth in mind, body and spirit by encouraging them as they put themselves to the contest within the Maccabi Games.”

An informational session about the games will be held at the J on Sunday, Nov. 22 at 2:30 p.m. Those who can’t make that meeting, says Riback, should save the date for a kick-off event on Sunday, Dec. 20, 1-4 p.m., which will include games and activities in the gym.

For more information, contact Riback at or 299-3000, ext.175.­