By Jim Melwert

CHERRY HILL, N.J. (CBS) — More than a thousand Jewish teenagers from across the country and around the world are in South Jersey this week, taking part in an Olympic-style competition.

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Kids from across the United States are joined by teams from Great Britain and Israel at the Maccabi Games, in Cherry Hill, for sports that include basketball,  swimming, lacrosse, baseball, dance, tennis, and track & field.

Katz JCC president Donna Bell says this huge endeavor wouldn’t be possible without help from the entire community.

“We have 2,000 volunteers, 500 host families,” she said today.  “Everybody is pitching in.”

Among those volunteers is Donna Rose, who jokes that the Maccabi Games have taken over her life the last few months.

“My children think they’re orphans,” she said today.  “They want to know why there’s no food in the refrigerator, why the laundry isn’t done.”

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But it’s worth all the effort, she says, and games director Rob Kiewe agrees — especially about the opening ceremonies, when the 20 kids from Israel marched in to a  standing ovation.

“There was a point where people were asking, ‘Is Israel coming?  Is Israel coming?’   Not only did they get here, they marched in, and the ovation that the  crowd gave to them, it was awesome.”

Hope Morgan, one of the 2,000 volunteers helping with the games, she says she cried when the Israeli team arrived.
“Really emotional, with the state of what’s going on in the world with Israel, that they made it here, that they’re happy, they’re having something fun to keep their mind off what’s going at home this week,” she says.

While sports are at the center of the event, organizers say the social aspect is just as important, and the kids will also take part in service projects through “JCC Cares.”


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