Ten teen athletes from Tidewater travelled to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. to participate in the JCC Association of North America’s 41st Maccabi Games last month. Along with Tom Edwards, athletics director for the Simon Family JCC, these teens braved the Florida summer heat for four days, August 7-11, along with approximately 1,600 other Jewish teens comprising 64 delegations from the U.S., Canada, Ukraine, Mexico, South Africa, Argentina, and Israel.
Baseball, flag football, lacrosse, basketball, ice hockey, girls’ volleyball, swimming, soccer, table tennis, tennis, and dance competitions are among the Games.
For Tidewater’s competitors, however, basketball, soccer, and flag football were the games of choice.
Five boys – Caleb Bailey, Leo Gottlieb, Ashten Konikoff, Eli Lomogda, and Henry Scolnick – played 3 on 3 basketball in the 14 and under category. The youngest team to compete, after round robin play to determine rankings, they upset the number one seed in the first round.
Charlie Gross also played 3 on 3 basketball as part of a 16 and under team with players from Tucson and Kansas City. Undefeated until the gold medal finals, the opponent scored with six seconds left, earning Charlie and his team a silver medal.
Tamir Zach, participating in his third and final Maccabi Games, and his younger sister, Shanny, both competed in soccer. Shanny played goalie for the first time and was awarded the Midot award by her coach for being an exceptional teammate.
Sam Levin played 16 and under flag football, and his team made it to the bronze medal round. While tied at halftime, his team finished in fourth place.
Another highlight of the Games belongs to 12-year-old Oliver Scolnick who competed in Access, a Maccabi program for Jewish athletes ages 12-22 years old with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Of the 21 Access athletes who participated in multiple events, Oliver was voted outstanding male athlete. He also won six medals for his many sports, including swimming, football, basketball, and bowling.
In addition to competition, the Maccabi Games encourage community service and other volunteer activities through JCC Cares, the service component of the JCC Maccabi experience that highlights the JCC Maccabi value of tikkun olam (repairing the world). This year, athletes brought 3,000 new pairs of shoes for underprivileged families of Broward County, Fla. Athletes spent an afternoon preparing these shoes for distribution, including a personal note wishing recipients a good school year.
The JCC Maccabi Games also aim to encourage Jewish pride and identity in the athletes and offer an environment for them to develop friendships with Jewish peers around the world.
“The spirit inside those arenas parallel those of the Olympic Games,” says Hila and Shachar Zach, parents of Tamir and Shanny. “We truly enjoy seeing the Jewish spirit coming to life while being part of such a large Jewish event.” The Zach family has been participating in the Maccabi Games since 2018.
“As a parent attending the JCC Maccabi Games with our son, the event from beginning to end was outstanding,” says Drew Gottlieb, Leo’s dad. “The coaching was top notch. The opening night ceremony production was something I would have expected from a professional sports team. The local JCC was fantastic with great accommodations for all the visiting athletes and their families.
“I would and will recommend (the event) to anyone who asks, and even those who don’t,” says Gottlieb.
At the Games’ conclusion, the locations for the 42nd JCC Maccabi Games® next year were announced. The Jewish Community Center of Metropolitan Detroit in West Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, will host the Games July 28 to August 2, 2024, for athletes ages 12-16. And in Houston, Texas, the Evelyn Rubenstein JCC will host the JCC Maccabi Games® and Access August 4 to 9, 2024, for athletes ages 12-16 and Access athletes ages 12-22.