Hundreds of student athletes from 19 countries and across the United States are expected to journey to Bexley this month for the 2016 Maccabi Games.

Hundreds of student athletes from 19 countries and across the United States are expected to journey to Bexley this month for the 2016 Maccabi Games.

The games will be presented July 24-29 by the Jewish Community Center of Greater Columbus (JCC).

The Maccabi Games is one of the largest international annual gatherings of Jewish teens. Twenty delegations of athletes will stay with host families in the Columbus area for the week.

"It's a smaller version of the Maccabi Games that they have in Israel," said Bexley resident Jon Meyer, who is co-chairing the Bexley events with his wife, Karen. "It's held in two to three cities around the country. This is Bexley's fifth time hosting, which is the most times a city has hosted."

As a member of Team Columbus, local Jewish teens ages 12 to 16 will compete against athletes from around the world in eight sports: baseball, basketball, golf, soccer, swimming, table tennis, tennis and volleyball. Competitions will take place at the JCC, Capital University, St. Charles Preparatory School and Bexley High School.

The city of Bexley is helping to promote the events and welcome the student athletes and other visitors to the area, Mayor Ben Kessler said.

"The Maccabi Games are a great opportunity for us to support and appreciate athletic excellence from around the world, and we're looking forward to supporting and enjoying the games," he said.

Beyond the competitions, Maccabi Games athletes also will take part in community service projects, ranging from mentoring special-needs students to visiting senior citizens at nursing facilities, Meyer said.

"It extends from small lessons, helping to build their value systems," he said. "We have a number of different social-service programs."

The week will kick off with opening ceremonies July 24 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center, with the JCC hosting closing ceremonies July 29. Community involvement is essential to the games, from local sports enthusiasts who attend the competitions to volunteers who take an active role in helping to organize activities, keep score and serve food to the athletes.

"Ultimately, it's about having fun, not just the Jewish community, but the broader community. We've had a lot of support from the broader community," Meyer said. "It's about making connections."

The JCC is still seeking volunteers for the Maccabi Games. For information, visit Columbusjccmaccabi.org. Those interested may also contact Jeanna Brownlee at 614-559-6274 or jkbrownlee@columbusjcc.org.

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