When it comes to the Maccabi games, these two are pros
April 21, 2017
After reading the article about Zev Halikman, the young 22-year-old who made the USA Maccabi water polo team (see the April 7 issue of Heritage), Rochelle Willner of Temple Shalom Aleichem in Kissimmee was on the phone to Heritage.
"I thought you'd like to know that there are two other people from here going to the World Maccabiah Games this summer," she said.
Those two people are Marilyn Glaser, president of Temple Shalom Aleichem, and Kissimmee resident, Lazar Lowinger, a member of the USA Maccabi tennis team.
Unlike Halikman, this isn't their first World Maccabiah Game. They've been going to the Games for more than 30 years.
Glaser first started attending the Games in 1981. She has never been in any of the sports, but she certainly helped the players as the team nurse. This year, she will be the accommodation manager, or "Mother Hen" as she puts it, for about 1200 athletes in the 14- through 19-year-old age group.
"They didn't need a nurse this year, so I asked 'what can I do?'" she said.
Since there have always been accommodation managers assigned to each hotel where the athletes stayed, she knew what the job entailed, and she was thrilled to be able to do it.
Lowinger was invited by his friend and Maccabiah Hall of Fame tennis player Irving Levine in 1989 to try out for the U.S. men's Maccabi team while living in Newton, Mass. It was the 13th World Maccabiah Games-its Bar Mitzvah year. He did not make the team. However, a very determined young man, he was 52 at the time, he went to Puerto Rico and organized the Puerto Rican Maccabi Team.
In 1997, the year of the tragedy that killed several members of the Australian Team when the bridge they were crossing collapsed, Lowinger was invited to Mexico and together with his friend Justino Hirshon, won the Bronze medal against Israel top players.
In 2015 Lazar was invited to his native Cuba and joined the team that played in the13th Pan Am games in Santiago, Chile, and won 2 Silver medals in the Grand Masters competition thus giving Cuba their first Silver medals in Grand Masters Tennis.
In fact, Lowinger, who was dubbed the "Maccabi Maven" by the Jewish Advocate in Boston, has won one gold medal, several silvers and two bronzes for a total of nine medals, "so far," he added.
According to Lowinger, there are four catagories for competing: Juniors for ages 14-18; Open Division, all ages; Masters, ages 35-65; and Grand Masters, 65 and up. There is no age limit. Lowinger, who is now 82, said he'd be playing at the Games until they put him in a casket.
Glaser said in her role as an accommodation manager she will make sure everything goes smoothly, including getting players to practice or games and home again; and make sure there is food for when they get back to the hotel.
"The ultimate goal is to make sure everyone has a great time," she said.
This year's 20th World Maccabiah Games will be special as Glaser plans to renew her bat mitzvah vows. Never having been bat mitzvahed, Glaser had her first bat mitzvah at the 13th World Maccabiah Games in 1989. Since then all the athletes are given the opportunity to have their bar/bat mitzvah there.
The USA Maccabi team will arrive one week before the Games begin. Glaser said the USA Maccabi team will tour Israel and be introduced to what the games are all about.
"This really exposes the athletes to their Jewish heritage," she explained, "and as a result, many have made aliyah."
In fact, Glaser made aliyah and lived in Israel for several years just south of Jerusalem.
Lowinger, a retired attorney, has lived in many places. He grew up in Romania, but has lived in Cuba, Paris, Montreal and Newton, Mass. He moved to Kissimmee in 2011. He never lived in Israel, but when he is there for the Games he feels "like I belong there."
Glaser also mentioned that many marriages resulted from the Games, and lots of Macci-babies too!
Lowinger and Glaser met at the World Maccabiah Games.
"We would see each other at the Games, but it was more of a 'hello, goodbye' relationship," Glaser said. Then five years ago, since they both lived in Kissimmee and loved the Games, they decided to become a couple and now they enjoy going to the Games together.
The 20th World Maccabiah Games begin July 4 and run through July 18.