The Maccabiah Games, sometimes referred to as the "Jewish Olympics", were first held in the midst of a worldwide depression. 390 athletes and 14 nations competed, figures similar to the participation in the very first Olympic Games 36 years before.
The Maccabi movement, named for Judah (The Hammer) Maccabee, was initiated in 1895-96 when the first all-Jewish Maccabi gymnastics club was formed in Constantinople. By the end of World War I, more than 100 Maccabi-style clubs existed in Europe. The first Maccabiah Games, featuring 13 countries and 300 athletes, was held in 1932. World events forced the delay of the third Maccabiah Games, scheduled for 1938, until 1950.
The Maccabiah Games have been a quadrennial event since 1957. In 1997, a record 5500 athletes from 53 nations competed in 43 different events.