Rugby union at the Maccabiah Games
The national sides which compete are organised by the national branches of the Maccabi World Union, rather than by the national rugby unions of each country, with the exception of Israel. Israel is also exceptional in being the only Maccabiah team for which one does not need to be Jewish to qualify.
Although rugby had been played in Israel for a number of decades, it was only in the 1970s that it became properly organised. In addition, it was felt that not enough of the nations competing at the Maccabiah could field good rugby teams. For example, New Zealand and Ireland are both major rugby playing nations, but do not have a big enough Jewish community to produce a particularly strong Maccabiah XV. In addition, some major rugby playing nations such as the Pacific Islands of Tonga, Samoa, Fiji and Japan, have an even more negligible Jewish population.
However, despite this there have often been six or seven sides competing at the Maccabiah Games. Teams tend to be from the major English speaking nations (with the exception of NZ and Ireland), but teams from France, Chile and Uruguay have also competed.
The Israel team is unique in being the only full national side at the Maccabiah, and which can contain non-Jewish Israeli players.
Rugby is played in many countries with sizable Jewish populations, notably France, the British Commonwealth and the USA. It has also been played in Israel since before the Second World War.
Some noted Jewish rugby players include:
- John Raphael, England (1882–1917)
- Bethel Solomons, Ireland (1885–1965)
- Aaron "Okey" Geffin, South Africa, hero of the 1949 test series in New Zealand.
- Louis Brabow, South Africa
- Samuel Goodman, manager of the gold winning US Olympic rugby, 1920, 1924.
- Myer Rosenblum, Australia
- Rupert Rosenblum, Australia
- Joel Stransky, South Africa
Notable Jewish players who have competed at the Maccabiah include:
- the English player Aaron Liffchak, who has been with Saracens F.C., London Welsh RFC, and who has played for the England team on the Under-18 & Under-16 national squads.
- the American player, Shawn Lipman
- the American player Zachary Test, who has been with the University of Oregon side, and who has played for the United States national rugby union team
Games have been hosted at various venues. In 1993, they were at the Tel Aviv University campus; in 1997, they were at the Herzliya Municipal Stadium (HMS); in 2005 and again in 2009, they were at the HMS and the Wingate Institute.
- Encyclopedia Judaica, Second Edition, volume 19, p146