Maccabi Games’ Valley team to compete under Westside JCC’s auspices

The closure of the Milken Jewish Community Center did not mean the dissolution of a Valley delegation to the Maccabi Games. Team L.A. Milken, which had been affiliated with the Milken JCC in West Hills, will now compete under the auspices of the Westside JCC on Olympic Boulevard.

Every delegation to the Maccabi Games must be affiliated with an official Jewish community center. The Milken team will retain its own coaches, athletes and administration for this summer’s games, but will be officially registered with the Westside JCC.

“There’s no real difference in the delegation’s administration,” Westside JCC Assistant Executive Director Ronnel Conn said. “It’s truly just a technicality.”

Philip Benditson, a former Milken JCC board member who chairs the Maccabi program, said that the official announcement for the center’s closure came after the delegation had already paid its registration fees and booked plane tickets. JCC Association, which organizes the annual games, decided to allow the Milken delegation to compete as L.A. Milken JCC on condition they went under the banner of the Westside center.

Until its closure, the Milken JCC was the last remaining Jewish community center in the San Fernando Valley with its own building. In February, Milken JCC chair Steven V. Rheuban announced that the board was abandoning its search for a new location following the Jewish Federation’s sale of the Bernard Milken Jewish Community Campus, which housed the center, to New Community Jewish High School. Milken JCC closed its doors on June 30.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Maccabi Games, with events scheduled to begin on Aug. 5 in Houston and Memphis, and the following week in Rockland, N.Y.

Team L.A. Westside, which is in its sixth year, is sending 65 athletes to the games, the largest delegation to date. The Milken team is sending 115 athletes.

Benditson said that the closure hasn’t really affected the teams’ abilities to practice, though now they were required to pay to use the facilities, including swimming pool and basketball gym, on the Milken campus.

Discussions about how to organize teams for the 2013 games won’t begin until after this year’s games are over, but there is a good chance that the Westside JCC will oversee all Los Angeles-area Maccabi operations.

“The only thing that is certain is that it’s all going to be under our JCC’s management,” Conn said.

Benditson, who has worked with the Valley delegation’s Maccabi team since 1995, thinks that a deal can be worked out to maintain a comparable program for next year.

“We’re appreciative that we still have our program,” Benditson said. “We believe in the program and we like working with the kids. We’re hoping to find a way to keep a program alive in the San Fernando Valley.”