…and then we take Berlin.
Two Calgary athletes will be participating in this year’s European Maccabi Games taking place in Berlin, starting on July 27. Held every four years and rotated through different countries, the European Maccabi Games are designed to perpetuate and strengthen the European Jewish community by creating new bonds of friendship and greater awareness of Israel and Jewish identity through athletic competition.
What is not lost on those attending this event is that it will be the biggest Jewish event ever held in Germany since the end of the Second World War. The Games will also mark 50 years of German-Israeli diplomatic relations and Maccabi Germany’s 50th anniversary.And both Calgary athletes, who are part of the Maccabi Canada team, have very personal connections to the tragic history of Jewish Germany.
Eddy Lang, a competitive swimmer, will be celebrating his 50th birthday in Berlin, the city in which he was born. For 16-year-old Samuel Eisenberg, a rising basketball star in the city, it will mean learning more about his mother Marla’s parents, who suffered from the Holocaust.
For Eddy Lang, it’s pure joy to be competing in his third Maccabi games. “They take great care of you and treat you very well. You get to meet great Jewish athletes from around the world and form friendships. It’s very special,” he says.
It will also be a time of memories and reflection. His parents were Holocaust survivors who settled in Israel after the war. His father wanted to open a furrier business in Canada but the family was refused entry here. They were allowed, however, to go to Germany and from there they were eventually granted permission to immigrate to Canada. It was in this period that Eddy was born in Berlin.
Eddy Lang’s return to Berlin comes as a swimmer in the “masters” division. His specialties are butterfly, backstroke and medley in 100 meter and 200 meter distances. He and his wife are both very active swimmers in the city with the Calgary Masters Swim Club. They average probably 10 workouts a week at the Talisman Centre.
Samuel Eisenberg started playing basketball at the Calgary Jewish Academy in grade five and kept it up at John Ware junior high and Western Canada High School. The 6’-0” guard plays competitive basketball with different club teams organized through the Calgary Minor Basketball Association. That has taken him to high-level basketball tournaments in locales such as Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, and Seattle. Samuel really hasn’t had much opportunity to practice with his Maccabi teammates because they are based in Toronto.
“I did go on my own to Toronto a while back and met the coaches and some of the players. They have looked at tape of me so they know the kind of player I am and I feel pretty confident that I’ll fit in well with the team,” he said.
His parents, Cliff and Marla Eisenberg will travel with their son to Berlin. Besides the adventure of cheering on their son in one of the great sporting events in Europe, there will be time for the family to reflect on their loses during the Holocaust. “This is particularly important for Marla as her father is a Holocaust survivor,” said Cliff. “But we are extremely proud of Samuel for being given an opportunity to play for Canada. This will be a once in a lifetime experience for him and I think it’s going to deepen his lifelong connection to the Jewish world.”