Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies

Experiencing Israel Through Sport: Evaluation of Israel Connect and the Impact of the 2022 Maccabiah Games

Shahar Hecht, Nicole Samuel, Sasha Volodarsky, Allyson Birger, Graham Wright, Leonard Saxe

January 2024

Maccabiah 2022 cover

The Maccabiah Games, which have taken place in Israel nearly every four years since 1932, draw thousands of Jewish athletes from around the world to compete for their respective countries, develop connections with their peers, and deepen their relationship with Israel and the Jewish people. For the US delegation, the Maccabiah experience is accompanied by a multi-day educational and cultural travel program called “Israel Connect,” which is designed to strengthen athletes’ Jewish identities and knowledge of and connection to Israel.

This report follows up on our earlier 2018 study and focuses on the athletes who applied to compete in the U16/U18 and in the Open divisions of the 2022 Maccabiah Games in Israel. In addition to examining the impact of participating in the Maccabiah on athletes’ connections to Israel, their Jewish peers, and the Jewish people, the report aims to evaluate how the challenges identified in the 2018 study were addressed in the 2022 program.