THE 33rd instalment of Maccabi Australia’s (MAI’s) Junior Carnival in Melbourne was a success for the 448 Jewish kids that came from across Australia, but, glaringly, hundreds more were missing.
This year’s carnival was the smallest ever held in the major Maccabi hubs of NSW and Victoria. When Melbourne last hosted the event in 2011 more than 800 kids participated, while in 2007 more than 1100 kids descended on the city.
MAI president Barry Smorgon said a comprehensive review will be conducted to determine what has caused the worrying decline. “I think it’s a potpourri of different things,” he said.
“The last several years, the emphasis has been more on the social perspective rather than sport. We’ll certainly review that and I imagine going forward we’ll come back to be more sport-orientated, because what we find out is some kids that are talented athletes … say, ‘There’s not enough competition, so why should I go?’
“Lots of people travel overseas with their children this time of year, so timing, while this has been our traditional period to having a Carnival, needs to be reviewed,” Smorgon said.
MAI executive director Ellana Aarons said participation between the ages of 12 and 14 has remained steady, but the lack of interest from older teenagers has contributed to the collapse in numbers. “We lost year 10s probably a year or two ago at least, and now the year 9s are very much in favour of going to [youth movement] fed camps rather than Carnival.”
Despite the lagging figures, Junior Carnival manager Justin Lipson said: “From our end, it’s been a successful experience with kids saying it’s the best Carnival they’ve ever been to.”
He added, “It’s clear the numbers are reduced from the previous Carnival … we’ll look into it at the review. It’s disappointing for the kids who couldn’t participate because they would have had a great experience being involved.”
New and updated initiatives rolled out during Carnival – including the community volunteering day, a neon run and the involvement of Maccabi All Abilities members – have all been warmly received, Lipson said.
The opening ceremony of the 33rd Maccabi Junior Carnival. Photo: Peter Haskin