A resident of Dallas, Texas recently sent me a report about the North American regional JCC Maccabi games, hosted on July 31-August 5, 2005 by the Dallas Jewish Community Center:
Held at the Resistol Arena in the suburb of Mesquite, the competition involved 1,400 athletes from the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Israel. Some three to four thousand spectators (in addition to the athletes) attended the opening ceremony, which included a keynote address by Mark Cuban, the charismatic owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team, reminiscing about his boyhood participation in JCC basketball leagues in Pittsburgh.
But an eerie secrecy surrounded the Maccabi games. They were well publicized within the Jewish community via the local Jewish press, synagogue newsletters, direct mail from Jewish community centers, and the internet. But the general Dallas media – television, radio and newspapers – barely mentioned them. Particularly striking was the marquee at the Resistol Arena, which did not indicate the activities within.
Also, security was intense. Those who wished to attend the opening ceremony or the athletic competitions had to pick up tickets in person from the JCC campus in North Dallas. Security on site included at least five staffed Mesquite police cars on the premises and many uniformed and armed officers in the arena. All spectators were screened at the door, with handbags prohibited in the arena.
I sent the above to Kenny Goldberg, one of the organizers of the Maccabi games, asking for comment. He pointed out in some detail what an impressive volunteer effort the games were, the benefits they brought to the participants, and the like, none of which I for a second doubt. He also called it "not accurate and even a little offensive" to describe the games as secret because
if you could talk to any of the 1,500 young Jewish athletes, their families, the 500 coaches and delegation heads, and particularly the more than 2,000 local volunteers and host families you would get a sense of the phenomenal results we were able to accomplish. This event electrified and energized our community and created life changing and lifelasting experiences for our "kids."
As for the lack of publicity, he informed me that there was
a plan in place to execute later in the week. The Dallas Morning News' religious and sports departments were contacted and encouraged to participate after opening ceremonies. Our media team was told to activate the general community with the same timing. I cannot tell you why this p.r. did not occur, only what the plan was.
Comment: (1) To me, observing from the outside, the reason for the quiet and the security seems obvious – a concern that Muslims would make some kind of trouble. In the city that hosts the Holy Land Foundation, the Elashi brothers, and Mufid Abdulqader, the Jewish community is understandably anxious. Such a prospect is made all the more real by the subsequent arrests in Los Angeles of Levar Haney Washington, Gregory Vernon Patterson, and Hamad Riaz Samana (who had in their possession the addresses of synagogues, the Israeli Consulate and the El Al ticket counter at LAX).
(2) It was just a few years ago that American Jews met openly and publicly in Dallas and elsewhere, but this appears no longer to be the case. I take it as further proof of what I have been saying for some time, that the golden age of American Jewry is coming to an end. (August 23, 2005)