International Jewish sports organizations.
Named for the Judean heroes who fought Antiochus in the second century b.c.e., the Maccabi World Union began in 1895 with the formation of clubs like the Israel Gymnastics Club in Istanbul and others in Bucharest, Berlin, and Saint Petersburg. By World War I, membership in the Turkish Maccabi was two thousand.
Although not ideologically a Zionist movement, the Maccabi was part of the phenomenon of a rising Jewish national consciousness during the late nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries. Maccabi clubs became important institutions in British-mandated Palestine, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, and Libya. There was a popular Maccabi club in Baghdad during the late 1920s, but it ceased to be officially active as anti-Zionist Arab nationalism turned virulent. Along with groups such as the Union Universelle de la Jeunesse Juive (Universal Union of Jewish Youth), Jewish Scouts, cultural associations, and modern Hebrew-language schools, the Maccabi helped to foster a feeling of solidarity among Middle Eastern and North African Jewry with their coreligionists worldwide, as well as sympathy for Zionism.
Stillman, Norman A. The Jews of Arab Lands in Modern Times. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1991.