The Jewish Community Center of Greater Columbus will host student athletes from 19 countries and all over the United States on July 24-29 for the 2016 Maccabi Games.

The Jewish Community Center of Greater Columbus will host student athletes from 19 countries and all over the United States on July 24-29 for the 2016 Maccabi Games.

This summer will mark the fifth time that the Columbus JCC, 1125 College Ave., has hosted the Maccabi Games, one of the largest annual gatherings of Jewish teens in the world. It last hosted the games in 2004. The week of competition includes an array of cultural and social activities, providing informal Jewish educational experiences to the student athletes, said Jenna Brownlee, JCC sports and wellness director.

"It's an athletic, social and community event," Brownlee said. "It's kind of like the Olympics, but more."

Twenty delegations comprised of several hundred athletes from across the United States, as well as those from Israel, Mexico and Canada, will travel to Columbus for the week. As a member of Team Columbus, local Jewish teens ages 12 to 16 will compete side by side with athletes from around the world in eight sports: baseball, basketball, golf, soccer, swimming, table tennis, tennis and volleyball.

"We'll have well over 500 kids," Brownlee said.

Competitions will take place at the JCC, Capital University, St. Charles Preparatory School and Bexley High School. The week will kick off with opening ceremonies July 24 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center, with the JCC hosting closing ceremonies on July 29.

In addition to the athletic component, students can also participate as "star reporters," providing news and updates about the games.

The community will play an essential role in hosting the games, Brownlee said, by serving as host families to volunteering at events.

Accommodations are still needed for about 75 student-athletes, she said, and host families must have at least one Jewish parent in the household. About 400 more volunteers, with no such requirements, are needed.

Volunteers and host families are usually recruited through word of mouth, Brownlee said.

"It's so much fun -- the families really come to us," she said. "We have a good base of volunteers. The community has really opened its doors."

For registration and more information about participating, volunteering, being a host family or sponsor opportunities for the Columbus JCC Maccabi Games, visit columbusjccmaccabi.org. Those interested may contact Brownlee at 614-559-6274 or jkbrownlee@columbusjcc.org.