||Report of the group's activities and achievments as of July 1935. Maccabi World Union, the international Jewish sports organization had its origin in the belief of young Eastern European Jews involved in the growing movement for a national home in Palestine at the end of the 19th century that one essential prerequisite was the improvement of the physique of ghetto youth. To this end, gymnastics clubs were founded in a number of Eastern and Central European countries. They were not immediately called Maccabi. The first club, opened in Constantinople, Turkey, in 1895, was called the Israel Gymnastics Club, while others were named after another hero, Bar Kokhba, or were known by the Hebrew names "Ha-Ko'ah" ("strength") or "Ha-Gibbor" ("strong man"). The Bar Kokhba club published a monthly journal Juedische Turnzeitung later called Der Makkabi; it first appeared in 1900 and promoted athletics and national Jewish education. In 1897 the first of a series of Bulgarian clubs were opened in Plovdiv; a club was organized in Berlin in the following year and in Vienna in 1899. 1901 saw the establishment of a Polish club in Lemberg.
The concept of a nationalist sports movement received impetus in 1898 from a stirring address by the well-known Zionist leader, the physician Max Nordau, at the second Zionist Congress in Basle, in which he proclaimed: gymnastics and physical training are exceedingly important for us Jews, whose greatest defect has been and is a lack of discipline... nature has endowed us with the spiritual qualities required for athletic achievements of an extraordinary quality. All we lack is muscle, and that can be developed with the aid of physical exercise... The more Jews achieve in the various branches of sport, the greater will be their self-confidence and self-respect.
The truth of Nordau's contention was demonstrated in 1903 at the fourth Zionist Congress in Basle, where a group of 35 outstanding gymnasts from various European clubs staged an impressive display. It was at this Congress that the foundations were laid for the Juedische Turnerschaft, the Union of Jewish Gymnastics Clubs, which united all the existing sports clubs, beginning with a membership of some 1,500. It was headed first by Ernst Tuch and later by Theowald Sholom, both of them from Germany. During the first decade of the 20th century the movement spread to more countries on the European continent and to Palestine, where clubs were formed in Jaffa (1906) and Jerusalem (1911). The first real approach to Zionism came in 1912, when at a Maccabi conference in Berlin it was decided to organize group excursions to Palestine (1913 and 1914). By this time there were over 100 affiliated clubs in Europe, with a membership running into several thousands, and the movement had come to be accepted, unofficially, as part of the Young Zionist movement. World War I halted Maccabi activities, but with its close they were renewed everywhere in Europe. As the movement grew, so did the need for firmer integration and in 1921, at a convention in Carlsbad, Czechoslovakia, the World Maccabi Union was formed, and the first Maccabi World Union congress elected Dr. Heinrich Kuhn of Germany as its first president. With ten affiliated countries, the Maccabi World Union started its operations as an organic part of the Zionist movement. By the time of the second Maccabi congress a year later, under the presidency of Heinrich Lellever (1891–1947) of Germany, no less than 22 territorial organizations had affiliated, and the world membership had grown to nearly 100,000.
The first headquarters of the movement were in Vienna, but in 1927 they were moved to Brno, Czechoslovakia, and in 1929 to Berlin, where the movement flourished under the energetic leadership of Dr. Lellever. In 1929 the first international sports meeting was held in Prague; another was held in Antwerp, Belgium, the following year. These were forerunners of the world Maccabiah games which were to be staged in Palestine from 1932 onward. In 1935 headquarters were transferred from Nazi Germany to London, where Selig Brodetsky took over the presidency of the World Union, and the second Lord Melchett (Mond) became honorary world president. In 1939 the world executive was divided into two sections, one operating in Britain and the other, under Lellever, in Palestine. By the time World War II broke out, the world membership was estimated at 200,000 with branches located in most countries of Europe and in Palestine, Turkey, Egypt, China, Australia, South America, and South Africa. It was in 1939 that a nucleus of refugees from Europe established Maccabi in the U.S.
Maccabi has a junior organization "Young Maccabi" which was founded in 1929 and whose aim includes training youth towards good citizenship and personal fulfillment in all branches of Israeli life, and adheres to Jewish traditional values. Maccabi has 10,000 members in 30 branches.