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A unique experience for Jewish athletes from around the world

Posted on August 30, 2019

Maccabi 2019 Summer Games – A unique experience for Jewish athletes from around the world

With fall and the high holidays quickly approaching, I want to share with you the beautiful and meaningful summer we experienced at Maccabi Canada.

We were fortunate enough to participate in two Games this summer: The Pan American Maccabi Games in Mexico City, Mexico and the European Maccabi Games in Budapest, Hungary. Each community welcomed our delegation and provided a remarkable experience.

The Jewish community of Mexico City was just extraordinary. They recruited 1,500 volunteers, many of whom took time off work to welcome Jews from 22 countries. These volunteers were accessible at each venue, hotel, and helped to ease transportation and any language barriers. The Mexico City Jewish Community hosted the Games with pride and generosity, and we will always be grateful for their warm hospitality.

Yet, the most powerful aspect of both sets of Games occurred on Shabbat. In Mexico City 2,000 Jews from different countries gathered for Kabbalat Shabbat service and dinner. I looked around the room and marveled how complete strangers, many of whom speak a different language and originate from faraway cities all sing and pray the same songs that I grew up with. I realized in that moment how true is the old quote by the Zionist thinker Ahad Ha’am: “More than the Jews have kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jews…” Whether it is in our homes or at gatherings such as the Maccabi Games, Shabbat is when Jews from around the world can feel connected.

In Budapest, a city full of beautiful architecture and old-world charm, we found testaments at every corner of a vibrant Jewish community with rich history. The Maccabi European Games’ Shabbat Service took place at the Dohany street Synagogue, the largest synagogue in Europe and where Theodor Herzl had his Bar Mitzvah. It was in this location, 75 years after the German occupation of Hungary, 3,000 Jews came together to begin their Shabbat service by signing Hatikvah loud and proud. If you have not seen the incredible video of this, please visit our Facebook page to view it.

The Games are first and foremost an elite sports competition. Our athletes compete at the highest level they can, but unlike other tournaments or sporting events, there is so much more beyond the thrill of victory or agony of defeat. The Maccabi movement brings to life our Jewish identities and connects us all to one another, both through sports and through our rich history.

On behalf of Maccabi Canada, I would like to thank our athletes and their family members who came to support them. I would also like to thank our dedicated staff and volunteers for their hard work in making this summer such a success.

Members of our delegation sharing their experience and special moments and Team Canada’s athletic achievements:

This past July my husband Irving and I had the privilege of joining The Maccabi Canada delegation in Mexico City for the 2019 Maccabi games. We went at the invitation of our daughter Shawna Granovsky and grandson Brent Marks to cheer on their endeavours in the triathlon. It was so exciting to watch them compete cross the finish line in four different events.
We went to Mexico City in the heat of the summer and were surprised by the totally outstanding trip we had. The Mexican Jewish community warmly welcomed us and was there for us at every turn.
One of the touching evenings of our trip was on Friday night.
We took part in wonderful Friday night services in the beautiful Mount Sinai Synagogue in Polanco district of Mexico City. The service ended with a spontaneous hora dancing of youth from Australia, USA, Mexico, and many other countries. It was followed by a delicious Shabbat dinner. We eagerly shared stories with Jews from all over the world, united by sports and our Jewish heritage. We spent considerable time at the local Jewish Sport Centre – the CDI which is huge, beautiful, and the core of Jewish identity there. Our hearts swelled with pride from the opening ceremony through the events and entertainment to the closing evening. Our thanks to our Maccabi organizers for a great and memorable event.
Toddy and Irving Granovsky (Pan American Maccabi Games, Mexico City, 2019)

The 15th European Maccabi Games, held in Budapest, Hungary was a remarkable and meaningful experience for the 12 golfers representing Canada. The Opening Ceremonies welcomed the 2200 Jewish athletes from 42 countries and reminded all of us that we were here for something greater than ourselves. We felt our connection to the Jewish world and to our fellow competitors. And as the Opening Ceremonies wound up late Tuesday evening, the golf competition got underway early Wednesday, contested over 54 holes at the beautiful Panonia Golf Club, amidst high winds and even higher Canadian expectations.
To cut to the chase, after 3 hard-fought days, both the Open and master’s teams won their respective Gold Medals, while several players also garnered individual medals. Building on our medal count from the 2015 European Maccabi Games in Berlin, and the 2017 Maccabiah in Israel, we reminded the Maccabi golf world that Canada remained a power to be reckoned with. As importantly, each evening, and once the competition was completed, throughout the day, we ventured throughout Budapest, learning its complex history, understanding the sorrows and the triumphs of its Jewish community, and joining with our fellow athletes for a remarkable pre-Shabbat gathering at the stunningly beautiful Dohány Street Synagogue - the Great Synagogue of Budapest - and the largest in Europe. Reflecting on the entire experience, we grew together as athletes and as Jews, made wonderful friends from other countries, and showed the Jews of Hungary that we proudly stood beside them. This was a meaningful journey, in a beautiful setting, and an experience that connected and enriched all of us forever.
Jeremy Freedman (European Maccabi Games, Budapest, 2019)

Ola!! The Maccabi Pan American Games in Mexico City this past July was an incredible experience!
The culture of the city, the opening Ceremonies, my amigo teammates of the Masters Golf team and the mixers we had with other athletes from various countries were just a few highlights. Our Canadian organizers kept us safe, well fed and entertained. Thanks for the memories!!! Looking forward to trying out for Israel 2021!!
Eric Shendelman (Pan American Maccabi Games, Mexico City, 2019)

It was an honor to represent Canada in the Pan American Macabbi Games. I had the privilege to compete against astounding athletes from across the world which would not have been possible without Maccabi Canada giving me the opportunity. I want to say thank you for an unforgettable experience and for introducing me to my teammates and delegation members throughout this process. As my coaches Les Bernstein and Jason Dinetz would say, “we are going to shock the world” so here we come Israel 2021.

Ben Gottesman (Pan American Maccabi Games, Mexico City, 2019)

Mazal Tov to all the athletes and teams on winning their medals at the games!

Lee Mes
National Executive Director

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