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Security tight at Maccabi Games

A participant from New Jersey relaxes between competitions at the recent JCC Maccabi Games in Omaha, NE. (Omaha Jewish Press)

A participant from New Jersey relaxes between competitions at the recent JCC Maccabi Games in Omaha, NE. (Omaha Jewish Press)

MEMPHIS, August 6 (JTA) — Security at this year’s JCC Maccabi Games in Memphis was extremely high, as it has been for the past several years, organizers said. Police cars blocked the street entrance to the Memphis JCC, examining cars as they passed. Officers lined the halls of the center and police escorted busloads of teens to and from events. Police cars also were on around-the-clock duty outside the Holiday Inn Select Memphis East, where officials and coaches stayed. But Lenny Silberman, the continental director of the games, says security isn’t really any higher than in past years. “We were already so secure, not a stone goes unturned,” he said. After the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Argentina, security was revamped at the games. SWAT teams, bomb squads and helicopters patrolled that year’s games, held in Cleveland. While security this year wasn’t quite that extreme — and athletes seemed to regard it as necessary rather than intrusive — security has remained among organizers’ top priorities. Silberman, who also sits on the U.S. Olympic Committee, said that compared to other youth athletic events held by U.S. organizations like the Boys and Girls Clubs, the Maccabi Games’ security was “literally night and day” — in other words, much more secure. During a year of planning, organizers meet with the FBI and work closely with local officials, handing over control to the police at each location, he said. Via a series of conference calls and meetings throughout the year, organizers “know each host community is doing the right thing with regard to security,” Silberman said. Metal detectors were used at the community center and Memphis’ Pyramid sports complex, the site of the games’ opening ceremonies. As in the past, every athlete, volunteer, host parent and Maccabi official had to have a photo identification credential issued before the games. The I.D.’s were checked upon entering any event building. The only changes this year were a slightly higher police presence, and the issuing of credentials to visiting parents who wanted to watch their children compete.

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