Fourteen teenage athletes, ranging from ages 12-16, represented the Jewish Community of Louisville at the JCC Maccabi Games in Columbus, OH, July 24-29. Team Louisville brought back nine medals from this year’s Maccabi Games, but as always, the teens learned that the Maccabi Games are about much more than winning or losing. The Maccabi Games gave athletes the opportunity to demonstrate camaraderie and sportsmanship with Jewish youth from around the world.
Accompanying the team were Mike Steklof and Kari Semel as delegation and assistant delegation heads, respectively. Craig Goldstein and Michael Russman also joined the delegation, serving as basketball coaches for Lousiville’s under-14 team.
“The atmosphere was beyond welcoming, and the athletes were equally concerned about making lasting friendships as they were about their athletic performance. My favorite part was watching our players on mixed-delegation teams really hit it off with their new teammates,” says Semel.
The Louisville delegation had three athletes playing on mixed delegation teams, two of which went on to win silver medals in their respective sports. Adam Rudy, who played on the U-16 Tucson basketball team says, “The atmosphere was incredible, people all across the world coming together to form friendships … you don’t have that opportunity everywhere.”
The Games were also a great time for athletes to be reunited with friends whom they knew from past Maccabi games and other Jewish experiences.
Alayna Borowick, who played on the Nashville volleyball team, notes that Maccabi was a great time for her to reunite with her overnight camp friends. Borowick brought back one of Louisville’s four Middot Medals, which are “values” medals that staff members from any delegation can award on the spot.
Team Nashville noted, “We presented Alayna with a Middot Medal because she went above and beyond being a team player and exemplified everything that there is in being a respectful Jewish teen.”
Whether it was trading delegation pins, as is Maccabi custom, or playing Putt Putt at Columbus’ Magic Mountain, Louisville teens were always seen having a blast.
The delegation also participated in various community service projects through the JCC Cares initiative, which allowed them to take a step back from the games and focus on giving back to the community. There were a wide variety of projects. There a pop-up choir that performed at the Columbus JCC preschool. There was also an opportunity for some teens to work with teens with special needs, playing in sprinklers and playing games.
Team Louisville ended the day with one Gold Medal, which went to Brent Mannel in golf and four Silver Medals which went to Tovah Frocht in tennis, Ben Kaplin in baseball, Brent Mannel in golf and Adam Rudy in basketball.
Team Louisville also received four Middot Medals which went to Alayna Borowick in volleyball, Ethan Tuvlin in basketball, and Craig Goldstein and Michael Russman in basketball.
Teen delegation members were Alayna Borowick, Tovah Frockt, Drew Goldstein, Jacob Horvitz, Ben Kaplin, Lauren Greenberg, Adam Lapinski, Brent Mannel, Brad Margulis Adam Rudy, Harrison Russman, Michael Russman, Eli Schramko, Ethan Tuvlin and Yael Wagner.
The athletes had an incredible time at the Maccabi Games, and is already getting started with the preparations for next summer’s Maccabi Games. Semel, who will serve as delegation head next year, is hoping to attend the Birmingham, AL, games, which are to be held the first week of August 2017.
“We had a great time this year, but I want double the size of our delegation next summer!” she said.
The Louisville delegation’s participation in the 2016 Maccabi Games was made possible by a generous grant from the Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence.