Team Vancouver getting ready for the parade of athletes at the opening ceremony in Israel. (photo from JCCGV)
Twenty athletes and coaches represented Team Vancouver-Galil at two separate JCC Maccabi Games experiences this summer – in Israel and in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
The games in Israel July 5-26 celebrated the first return to the Holy Land for JCC Maccabi since 2011. The 1,000-plus athletes spent their first eight days engaged in athletic competition along the Mediterranean coast, from Ra’anana to Haifa. After all the competitions were completed, the teens then hopped on buses for two weeks of touring the country with a sports lens.
Aside from the usual Israeli hot spots, the tour included stops at Kfar Maccabiah Hotel, which has a sports complex, rafting down the Jordan River, surf lessons and a mega party event sponsored by RootOne, which also provided significant subsidies for the visiting athletes.
In Israel, Vancouver’s athletes competed in baseball, hockey and volleyball. Thanks to support from the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver and the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver, the delegation there included participants from Vancouver’s partnership region of Etzbah HaGalil in Israel’s north, who joined the hockey team.
Ayla Greenberg, who represented Vancouver on a mixed team with players from San Diego and Long Beach, said one of her fondest memories from the competition in Israel came after they played against a team from Ukraine and she bonded with some of her opponents.
“We talked about volleyball and being in Israel and how cool it was that we got to play with people we have never met,” said Greenberg. “It showed me that sports and competition were able to bring hundreds of teenagers from all around the world together in Israel and, no matter our differences, we were able to make friendships and memories that will last a lifetime.”
Greenberg went on to share her favourite story of the touring portion of the trip, when she arrived at the Western Wall.
“When I first got to the wall, there was a child next to me who was crying and her mother was on the other side of her,” explained Greenberg. “The child looked up at me and grabbed my hand and stopped crying. As I stood at the wall next to this child, I was extremely proud of being a Jewish woman and couldn’t help but be excited about the future and how I can make a difference in the world.”
The delegation in Israel included Greenberg, Tanner Barnett, Brody Winkler, Eli Tonken, Jesse and Ari Filkow, as well as Israelis Shay Rachevski and Josh Losinsky. They were joined by hockey coach Marie Vondracek and me, in my role as delegation head.
In that capacity, I also traveled to Fort Lauderdale. The delegation attending the week-long games there Aug. 4-11 competed in hockey, baseball, soccer, basketball and swimming.
Team Vancouver brought home four medals, including two gold and one bronze for swimmer Daniel Litvak, and a gold medal for the U16 soccer team, which included Vancouver’s star striker, Sam Perez.
The Vancouver delegates in Florida also included Sierra Brosgall, Laylah Bronstein, Ouri Tzvella-Sculnick, Bryson Lexier and Matai David. They were led by chaperone Mark David and me.
Next year’s JCC Maccabi Games will be hosted in Detroit and Houston, while a new Israel tour program will be offered for teens who want to experience Israel with a focus on sports.
This was a very special summer for the JCC Maccabi Games and the spirit and energy were incredible. These teens returned home with a long list of life-changing experiences and a connection to Israel and the Jewish peoplehood that will stick with them for life.
The day after arriving home from chaperoning Team Vancouver at the JCC Maccabi Games in Fort Lauderdale, Mark David resumed his position as head coach of the Richmond Islanders U15 softball team, as they competed in the Western Canadian Championships Aug. 11-13. David’s team, which included his daughter, Nava David, had a big weekend, winning the tournament and taking home the gold.
“These underdogs played with heart, determination and teamwork and came out on top with a gold medal,” the coach said. “It all came together with every player contributing in their own way.”
In other softball news, after a slow start to the season, the Purple Meshugeneh Cobras finished strong, winning the 2023 JCC Softball League championships.
Kyle Berger is Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver sports coordinator, and a freelance writer living in Richmond. For more information about the JCC Maccabi Games or the Vancouver JCC’s upcoming year-round programming, email Berger at [email protected].