On Sunday, August 14, delegations of young Jewish athletes from greater Hartford and Stamford will descend upon Western Massachusetts to take part in the 2011 JCC Maccabi Games.
Hosted by the Springfield Jewish Community Center from Aug. 14-19, approximately 800 teens from around the United States, Canada, Mexico and Israel are expected to participate in the Games. The goal of the Maccabi Games is, “through sports, to perpetuate and preserve the American Jewish community by encouraging Jewish pride, strengthening Jewish bonds and by creating a heightened awareness of Israel and Jewish identity.”
The teen athletes will compete in soccer, tennis, basketball, swimming, table tennis, volleyball and track and field. Besides the Springfield JCC campus, venues will include Western New England University, American International College and Springfield College, each of whom have opened their facilities to the JCC Maccabi Games.
As the countdown clock in the lobby of the JCC ticks away, final preparations are in full swing.
“This is what we’ve all been working for,” says Betsy Bertuzzi, Games co-chairperson. “This has been over a year in the making and it all comes down to this, the crunch of the final 30 days. Everyone has their head down and is fully focused on the main event… August 14th!”
“As much as we have done to date, there is still so much left to do,” Michael Paysnick, executive director of the JCC, said. “Last minute details abound, but, as we did in 2002, we expect to deliver the most outstanding week of Maccabi memories ever.”
Paysnick said that every last detail is being reviewed to make sure everything is ready.
“So, it is really the nitty-gritty details that we are working on to make sure we haven’t missed anything and are covering all of our bases,” Paysnick said.
“Finding host families is really the most difficult job,” Paysnick said. “So we have reached out to the Hartford community to help us with this.” The Mandell JCC in West Hartford is hosting many of the athletes and has arranged a shuttle service to help transport them to the Games.
Paysnick was assistant director in 2002 the first time the Springfield JCC hosted the Maccabis. Things are a bit different this time around.
“In some ways it is easier – not everything is a surprise. Whereas we were like deer in the headlights in 2002, today, we have a staff that is experienced,” Paysnick explained. “We have volunteers, many of them who participated in the planning of 2002, and we have new people that have come on board who have had the benefit of their experience.”
Caring and Sharing
On Tuesday and Wednesday, Aug. 16 and 17, when the athletes are not competing, they will participate in two Days of Caring and Sharing. Activities will include working with underprivileged kids from Springfield and with seniors at the Jewish Geriatric Nursing Home in Longmeadow, Mass.
“The Day of Caring and Sharing is a very special day – it is actually going to be two days this year and the kids are split by the academic they are in. There are a number of terrific activities we are doing,” Paysnick said.
One project will be with Rachel’s Table, the hunger prevention program of the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts. “They do an annual food-raiser and we are going to do something similar with the Big Y.”
An outdoor carnival will be set up at the JCC and children involved with Springfield’s inner-city agencies will come to play Games and have fun with the Maccabi athletes and athletes will head over to the JGS to run a “Senior Olympics” with residents of the nursing home.
“They are enjoying the fruits of the labors of the community and this is their way of giving back, and of course, long-term we hope that this translates into giving back and participation in their own communities. And for us, it is important that we try to do something that is meaningful for the kids, and I think this is something where they will have an opportunity to interact and participate in something important.”
A brand new activity at the Maccabi Games this year is “Star Reporter.”
“’Star Reporter’ is for kids who want to participate in the Maccabi Games who are not necessarily athletically inclined, but who want to be part of the experience. These are teens who will be going around and will be assigned to go to different venues and take pictures and report. They will be helping us to publish on a daily basis the activities of the Maccabi Games,” said Paysnick.
These stories will be on the Maccabi website, on its Facebook page and hard copy versions of the stories will distributed each day. The Jewish Ledger will publish some of the “Star Reporter” coverage in its Aug. 19 edition.
While the JCC and the other venues will be buzzing with activity, security will be a concern.
“There will be a much higher level of security, so in order to get on the campus of the JCC, you will need a credential,” Paysnick said. “We are still going to be open for our members who will have a separate entrance.”
“The outpouring of support from the community, from the business community, from the Jewish community agencies and synagogues has been terrific,” Paysnick concluded. “We really are excited for the kids to come and the activities to begin.”
For more information about the 2011 Springfield Maccabi Games, go to www.springfieldjccmaccabi.org. To host a Maccabi athlete, call (413) 739-4715.
This is the third year that the Mandell JCC in West Hartford will be sending a co-ed soccer team to the Maccabi Games. “This helps to add to the spirit and camaraderie of the Games,” says the team’s delegation head Dave Laudati. The delegation of athletes representing the Mandell JCC in West Hartford at the Springfield JCC Maccabi Games includes:
■ Diane Berlinsky, West Hartford, 13, tennis
■ Sarah Berman, West Hartford, 13, swimming
■ Ethan Burstein, West Hartford, 14, basketball
■ Matan Doron, Simsbury, 12, swimming
■ Max Feigenbaum, West Hartford, 16, soccer
■ Rachel Fishman, West Hartford, 15, swimming
■ Alyssa Freiman, West Hartford, 14, tennis
■ Sydney Gellerman, West Hartford, 14, soccer
■ Jeff Greenberg, Avon, 15, basketball
■ Matthew Lefkowitz, West Hartford, 13, basketball
■ Micahel Liebman, South Windsor, 15, soccer
■ Samantha Pinkes, West Hartford, 14, swimming
■ Jordan Polun, West Hartford, 12, swimming
■ Jake Rosenberg, Weatogue, 12, basketball
■ Olivia Shea, West Hartford, 13, swimming
■ Jennifer Steinberg, West Hartford, 15, swimming
The Mandell JCC also sent two teens to the JCC Maccabi Games in Israel, which were held July 24 – Aug. 4. The teens went as part of the Stamford JCC delegation. Esther Hoff won a bronze and silver medal in two relay swim events.
■ Eric Butler, West Hartford, 16, basketball
■ Esther Hoff, West Hartford, 15, swimming
Athletes going to the JCC Maccabi Games in Springfield:
■ Noah Barr, Stamford, 16, tennis
■ Leora Bell, Stamford, 15, tennis
■ Ariel Goldberg, Stamford, 15, table tennis
■ Stephanie Hausman, Stamford, 13, swimming
■ Hannah Katz, Stamford, 13, soccer
■ Matthew Lewis, Stamford, 15, tennis
■ Jordan Rastegar, Stamford, 14, tennis
■ Greg Robinov, Stamford, 14, soccer
■ Jack Singer, Stamford, 14, tennis
■ Brandon Temple, Stamford, 15, tennis
The Stamford JCC also sent delegations of teens to both the JCC Maccabi Games and the JCC Maccabi ArtsFest that was held in Israel, July 24-Aug. 4. Daniel Soifer won the silver medal in Boys 15U Tennis. The delegation of young artists and athletes included:
■ Sydney Allon, Weston, 16, soccer
■ Valerie Bodurtha, Stamford, 14, acting/improv
■ Lindsay Bralower, Stamford, 16, soccer
■ Talia Cohavi, Rye Brook, N.Y., 14, basketball
■ Tamar Cohen, Stamford, 15, vocal music
■ Elizabeth Fahey, Stamford, 16, soccer
■ Maddie Hohmeister, Stamford, 14, dance
■ Dana Johnson, Stamford, 17, soccer
■ Elizabeth Judd, Stamford, 16, soccer
■ Greer Kauffman, Wilton, 15, soccer
■ Melissa Miles, Stamford, 15, basketball
■ Lauren Schapiro, Stamford, 17, soccer
■ Lainey Sidell, Stamford, 17, soccer
■ Miles Singer, Stamford, 15, tennis
■ Kayla Sodaro, Norwalk, 16, basketball
■ Daniel Soifer, Stamford, 15, tennis
■ Talia Weseley, Weston, 14, basketball
■ Tamar Weseley, Weston, 16, soccer
■ Erika Wollman, Weston, 17, soccer
■ Kaidy Wollman, Weston, 17, soccer
■ Katie Zabronsky, Stamford, 17, soccer
■ Jane Zorowitz, Stamford, 16, soccer