The silver-medal-winning volleyball team at the JCC Maccabi Games in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (photo by Kyle Berger)
They weren’t the largest delegation at the JCC Maccabi Games in Fort Lauderdale this past August, but Team Vancouver’s 13 athletes certainly made their presence felt.
No moment stood out greater than when the six local girls joined with four others from around North America – meeting for the first time at the games – to make up a volleyball team. They ended up taking the silver medal, beating out more experienced teams from New York, Massachusetts and California. Leah Serlin, Leah Schwartz, Jada Wilson, Julia Tregobov, Sydney Cristall and Simone Killas, aged 13-16, formed the core of the team coached by Jack Serlin. Despite not practising as a full squad until arriving at the games, the group came together and lost only to the host city’s team of all 16-year-old club players in the finals.
“For a new team facing several challenges, to be able to beat out teams who train and play together all season, such as Bensonhurst (Brooklyn) and Orange County, is quite an achievement,” said Jack Serlin. “It was such an overall feeling of pride and satisfaction seeing the girls come together as a unit, genuinely grow to like and play for each other, and perform so well on the court and have so much fun off of it.”
Serlin said he is already considering plans to battle for the gold medal next summer. “The fact that all the eligible girls can’t wait to come back next year is truly a testament to how successful we were and what an incredible experience the JCC Maccabi Games are regardless of your background or from where you come,” he said.
The Team Vancouver delegation was also made up of soccer players Josh Bugis, Rachel Bugis, Magalee Blumenkrans and Saul Kalvari. Zach Moldowan joined a baseball team from North Miami Beach while Jackson March won a couple of bronze medals in table tennis and Sydney Swick from Winnipeg joined the Vancouver delegation and took home a couple of medals herself.
“The JCC Maccabi Games is awesome every time I go,” said Kalvari, who attended his second set of games this summer. “The people you meet are amazing, from all over the world, and everyone is there for the same reasons. It’s great to be surrounded by so many Jewish teens just there to have fun.”
The JCC Maccabi Games are an annual multi-sport event hosted in different North American cities each summer. Jewish teens from around the globe compete in the Olympic-style event. The JCC Maccabi Arts Fest runs parallel to the games, engaging teen artists, who participate in workshops with a final performance or show at the end of the week. The games and arts fest attracts more than 3,000 Jewish teens each summer.
For more information on the JCC Maccabi Games and next year’s events, contact me at [email protected].
Kyle Berger is Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver sports coordinator, and a freelance writer living in Richmond.