Maccabi Australia and Non-Jewish players

December 2, 2011 by J-Wire Staff
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Maccabi Australia has issued a statement on its stance regarding clubs fielding non-Jewish players.

Lisa Borowick

The statement was issued following a headline published in local Jewish media declaring “MAI: Non-Jews welcome at Maccabi clubs”.

The statement, signed by Maccabi Australia president Lisa Borowick and chairman Barry Smorgon, reads:

“Maccabi Australia Announces its Strategic pathway.

At its recent Annual General Meeting and following a two year review of the issues impacting the organisation and its membership, Maccabi Australia’s Member States voted unanimously to change its constitution. This review was conducted in an open, transparent and inclusive process involving all the States < the stakeholders > who recognized that the organisation needed to show leadership on three key issues: what the organisation stands for; who constitutes a member; and to what extent Maccabi clubs would include, on a needs basis, non Jewish participation.

It is important that each of these issues is addressed in order to dispel any interpretation issues.

What does Maccabi stand for?

Barry Smorgon

The Maccabi Australia Inc (MAI) Board & its Member States recognised the need to reaffirm its position in the Jewish community and be clear about the role it plays. As such the Board recently undertook a strategic review, the outcome of which was the release of a set of values that underpin the organisation. At the cornerstone of these values is the fact that Maccabi exists to connect the Jewish community through sport. Each Maccabi stakeholder is encouraged to carry their Jewishness and ensure that through sport the community spirit is sustained.

The published objectives of Maccabi Australia are as follows:

  • To perpetuate and preserve the Australian Jewish community by developing and promoting the opportunity for Jewish athletes to share their identity through sport;
  • To promote participation in sport by providing the opportunity for Jewish athletes to compete in a range of carnivals and sporting events at the state, national and international level; and
  • To work actively to support programs that embody the Maccabi ideals of Jewish continuity, support for the state of Israel and excellence in sport.

Who are our members?

The membership of Maccabi has always been offered to people of Jewish faith – indeed there are over 9000 members of the Jewish community who are active members. As a result of the changing dynamic of our community, the Maccabi Board recognised the need to expand on the eligibility of membership and ensure that a child of a Jewish parent was able to be a member. This change has been widely accepted and welcomed as it allows people who have been at the edge of the community to be embraced and fulfils on the objective of providing continuity for the community in the face of growing assimilation.


Non Jewish Participation


Given that a clear expression of our values had been developed and adopted to the point that these are embedded in the membership sign-on process, and given that our membership is overtly based on Jewish principles, the MAI Board felt it was time to deal with an issue that has been subversively around for many decades – the involvement of non Jewish participation in various Maccabi clubs. The practice was not condoned by MAI, however, it had been occurring for some time and for various reasons. The MAI Board at its recent AGM decided to put the issue on the table and provide clarity, leadership and consistency around this issue. The following is a summary of the scenarios whereby there will be a tolerance for participation of non-Jewish participants:

  • Any club that is struggling for survival and is at risk of losing the opportunity to operate under the Maccabi banner due to size or locality;
  • Where a sporting association’s rules or constitution does not allow for qualification of individual club members; and

Where a club/team is operating at an elite level and needs some additional players to support its position in the league, some allowance may be made to enable this.


Whilst Clubs will be permitted under this new constitution to allow non-Jewish participants to accommodate these scenarios, it must be stated quite clearly, that these individuals will not be Maccabi members, they will be participants in that Club only.

Importantly, though, in all three cases the MAI Board instituted a defined process of review to ensure that its principles, values and membership criteria would be maintained, recognising this process needed to operate appropriately within the context of the Equal Opportunity Act. The Board engaged some of the best legal brains to ensure that this process and eligibility limitation would not contravene any statute.

It must be stated that each Maccabi Club around the country has the option of including this change to their constitution if they have a legitimate need or reason to. In most cases the situation will remain as is for clubs – as they are viable and have no need to extend their player base.

Importantly, participation in all other Maccabi events remains for Jewish Members only.

So Why the changes?

The MAI Board, taking a strategic view of the role it plays in the community, coupled with the changing dynamic of the community decided to provide some clear leadership on its position in the community and fulfil on its mandate – to connect the Jewish community through sport.

The MAI mission is unashamedly to “Develop and strengthen the Australian Jewish community through sporting, cultural and social activities”. The Board has, through its strategic review and constitutional change sought to ensure that the community will be strengthened.

Sport has enriched the life of the Australian Jewish Community for more than one hundred years, culminating in the establishment of Maccabi Australia in 1957.

Over these years Maccabi Australia has developed many events and opportunities for the Jewish community to remain connected including Carnivals, both Senior and Junior, Maccabi Australia International Games (MAIGs), Jewish Community Centre (JCC) Games, Pan American Maccabi Games, European Maccabi Games, and the focal point – the Maccabiah Games.

Whatever the nature of the event, a common thread runs through the history of Maccabi Australia – the thread of connecting the community – through friendship, sporting trends, training in leadership and responsibility, even through responses to tragedy.

Maccabi Australia symbolises community, friendship and the competitive spirit. Just as sport maintains an important role in society, Maccabi Australia enriches the Jewish Community, confirming its place in the history of our people.”


Barry Smorgon told J-Wire: “There will be a process in place through which the individual clubs will have to apply to their State bodies who in turn will have to have any decision endorsed by Maccabi Australia. We seek to bring widely used practices into line with the clubs’ and Maccabi Australia’s constitutions.”


5 Responses to “Maccabi Australia and Non-Jewish players”
  1. Hoops says:

    It is embarrassing that a community who promotes openness, diversity and tolerance can have a club like Maccabi who can’t open their doors to anyone who wants to play for them.

    They are the only club in their competition that registers players based on religion to my knowledge.

    You don’t need to be Jewish to play football for Israel, but you need to be to play for Maccabi, unless of course, you are not good enough..

    • Lynne Newington says:

      You don’t need to be Jewish to play football yes, but a Jewish club have the right to have Jewish players, whats the matter with you.
      Your making something out of nothing or looking for contoversy.

    • Lynne Newington says:

      Your missing the point. A club has the right to have it’s own guidlines, the Jewish community certainly does it’s fair share of promoting tolerance diversity and charity.
      Don’t you follow your own “community notice board”.
      If your not Jewish your not well informed.

  2. JohnyGipps says:

    How on earth does Maccabi achieve its aims of promoting Jewish continuity by officially allowing non-Jews into its ranks? Surely a Jewish organisation is meant to be for Jews only? If a club is short on numbers of players, then that’s too bad. It should close down. The organisation has obviously decided that competitiveness in sport takes priority over promoting Jewish continuity, identity and interaction with others who are Jewish…

  3. Lynne Newington says:

    The guidelines for Religious Discrimination, according to the Victorian Equal Opportunity act simplisticly put, makes it unlawful to discriminate against a person because: the person holds or does or does not hold, a religious view or the person engages in a lawful religious activity, or refuses or fails to engage in such an activity. A religious body is also permitted to do other things that conform with it’s religious doctrine, or necessary to avoid injuring the religious feelings of members of the faith. That should cover everything if it ever becomes an issue. I have found it ever so useful as a layperson dealing with a religious body in relation to a father and his child, and with John Searle in the right place you’ll be get it right.

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