Spotlight in the Detroit Jewish News
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Rolling Out the Welcome Mat
Listen closely around town this August and you’ll likely hear the lively chatter of foreign languages and accented English as metro Detroit welcomes 1300 teenagers from around the world, and across the country, for the JCC Maccabi Games and ArtsFest.
But before the first game gets underway, there’s the challenge of finding housing for these young athletes and artists. And that’s giving Shelly Rubenfire a case of the jitters.
“We’re bringing in significantly more participants than we have in previous years … this is a community-wide event and we need community-wide support,” said Rubenfire, co-chair of housing for this year’s event, scheduled for Aug. 4 – 9.
Rubenfire explained the games’ organizers still need close to 800 beds. And she’s hopeful all participants will have an assigned home by mid-May. Ergo, she’s a little anxious.
But Rubenfire is quick to point out the wonderful experience host families have by welcoming athletes and artists into their homes. “There are athletes who have become lifelong friends with host family siblings, elderly hosts take on the role of doting grandparent to the teens … it’s such a remarkable experience for everyone,” she said.
Requirements for host families include taking in a minimum of two athletes or artists, and providing them with a separate sleeping area. “They don’t need their own rooms, but an area where they can have some privacy … and we even provide air mattresses if needed,” she said, adding, “All we ask is that [families] provide a home away from home for our guests.”
Rubenfire also said hosts don’t need to have children participating in the event. She said, “We even have host families who don’t have children … young couples who open their homes and empty nesters.” However, at least one parent in the home must be Jewish.
There is no cost to be a host family, but families must attend an orientation session in the weeks before the games begin and go through a background check (at no cost to the family).
The schedule for the host families begins on Sunday, Aug. 4 when the athletes and artists arrive. Host families provide dinner and transportation to opening ceremonies that evening, make available breakfast and snacks Monday – Friday, and transport and pick up participants in the mornings and evenings. Families drop off athletes and artists at the JCC on Friday, Aug. 9 for departure.
Rubenfire said organizers are planning a shuttle for the North Woodward communities to transport athletes and artists to the JCC campus.
The athletes and artists will have some downtime. Rubenfire and organizers, then, are encouraging families to host events at home or participate in activities planned at area synagogues during Host Family Night.
“It’s really a remarkable week that goes by too quickly,” she said. Families interested in hosting Maccabi athletes and artists can learn more and sign up here.
And on behalf of the organizers, Shelly offers a hearty toda, gracias, merci … thank you.