New Orleans to host Maccabi ArtsFest

Three years after the aftermath from Hurricane Katrina forced the New Orleans Jewish community to cancel its turn at hosting the Maccabi Games, the Maccabi ArtsFest will come to the city.

The Maccabi Games is an annual athletic competition for Jewish teens, coordinated by the Jewish Community Centers Association. In 2006, the JCCA added the ArtsFest as a component to attract teens who have artistic interests.

JCC Maccabi ArtsFest is designed to inspire Jewish teens through a dynamic combination of workshop, performance, exhibition, recognition of excellence, community service, social activities, and fun. Teens develop their individuality through the medium of artistic expression while strengthening their bonds to their Jewish heritage, community and Israel.

There are two host sites for ArtsFest. In addition to New Orleans, the Merage Jewish Community Center of Orange County in Irvine, Calif., will hold ArtsFest.

The New Orleans festival will be Aug. 2 to 7.

Brook Bissinger said the event will attract about 170 teens from across the country, as well as well-known Jewish artists from around the world to serve as artists in residence for the week.
An early list of artists in residence includes Lee Zurik, broadcast journalism; Geoffrey Cantor, acting and improv; Carolyn Dorfman, dance; Lloyd Wolf, digital photography; Mattan Klein, Jazz ensemble; Naomi Ackerman, musical theater; and Beth Schafer, vocal music.

Joshua Nelson, pioneer of “Jewish Gospel” music, who performed in New Orleans earlier this year, will be artist-in-residence for rock music.

Culinary Arts and Visual Art artists will be named later.

Teens traveling from JCC sister cities in Israel or other delegations may arrive before Shabbat. Host families greet teens when they arrive, and the teens have a chance to meet with their artists-in-residence prior to the opening event.

The teens spend the majority of each day in master classes, preparing for the closing event. In the evening, teens relax at a host family night, enjoy social events, and look forward to special activities. They spend most of Thursday preparing exhibits and performances for the gala finale.

Each artist-in-residence establishes requirements for participation, which range from a strong interest in a particular art specialty to proven ability through the submission of audio/and or video tapes.

Local JCCs across the country organize delegations that travel to the ArtsFest. Bissinger said any teen from the region who is interested but either does not have a JCC nearby or whose JCC is not sending a delegation should contact the New Orleans JCC.

Teen recruitment will take place through March.

Teen participants should be entering grades 8 to 12, registered with a local JCC delegation, and conform to the JCCA definition of being Jewish — namely, one of the participant’s parents is Jewish and the participant is being raised as a Jew or is a Jew by choice and is being raised Jewish. In the spirit of ArtsFest, if the parent or teen does not believe they are Jewish on a year-round basis, then the teen should not participate.

For information on upcoming meetings for potential teen artists, contact Jessica Klein at the New Orleans JCC,, or (504) 887-5158.

Volunteer opportunities

Bissinger said there will be a need for hundreds of volunteers to ensure that the week runs smoothly.

A major component will be host families, housing visiting teens for the week. Host families drop off and pick up their guests in the morning and evening, and provide a few meals.
Transportation during program days is coordinated by the New Orleans JCC.

Host families will share in the Thursday night talent showcase.

For information on becoming a host family, email

Other volunteer opportunities include committees for hospitality and food, the teen advisory board, arrivals and departures, opening event, evening activities, the VIP reception and the Day of Caring and Sharing.

To volunteer, email