Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Orlando teens return triumphant from Maccabi Games


Team Orlando Delegation, front row: Jack Lerner, Evan Altman, Kyle Sabell, Leah Krinker, Julie Gottfried, Greg Childers; second row: Jesse Render, Justin Childers, Blake Garfinkel, Andy Ruben, Jason Kotzin; third row: Ben Landerman, Zachary Fluke, Adam Lightman; back row: Robby Etzkin, Jesse Lerner, Whitney Tossie.

This summer, thousands of Jewish teens, ages 13-16, from all over the world shared in the fun of competing and the pride of being part of a world-famous Olympic-style event filled with Jewish content and values.

Fourteen teens from Orlando traveled to Austin, Texas with delegation head, Robby Etzkin, to compete in basketball, soccer, and baseball. The 16U Basketball Team, which competed in the top bracket tournament under coaches Whitney Tossie and Jesse Lerner, included players, Evan Altman, Greg Childers, Justin Childers, Zachary Fluke, Blake Garfinkel, Jason Kotzin, Ben Landerman, Jack Lerner, Adam Lightman, and Jesse Render. Kyle Sabell and Andy Ruben won bronze medals in baseball, being “adopted” by the Austin delegation’s baseball team. Leah Krinker, who was “adopted” by the Ft. Lauderdale team, won the gold medal and was a stand-out scorer for her team.

Julie Gottfried participated in the STAR Reporter program, which allows teens to report on the sporting events throughout the competition using social media.

“Even if you’re athletic or not athletic, there’s something for everyone because I don’t play sports,” Gottfried said.

The Orlando delegation also traveled with JCC marketing director, Amy Schwartz, who served as the JCC Maccabi Games’ official photographer for all delegations.

The JCC Maccabi Games have been offering a life- and personality-shaping experience to Jewish teenagers since 1982. At this Jewish mini-Olympiad, each athlete has the chance to participate in one of 14 sporting events, creating memories that will last a lifetime. For many teenagers, the JCC Maccabi Games is the first time they have been around large numbers of Jews at one time, strengthening their Jewish identity.

“The JCC Maccabi Games use sports as the vehicle to gather Jewish teens from around the world for a week of sports and massive parties,” said Robby Etzkin, the Roth JCC’s assistant executive director and delegation head for Team Orlando. “Most teens have been to a bar/bat mitzvah party by this age but when they see themselves surrounded by over one thousand Jewish teens at the opening ceremonies and the parties, it opens their eyes to the greater Jewish community. Most teens leave the Games with Jewish friends all over the globe.”

Next year’s JCC Maccabi Games will be hosted by Detroit, Cherry Hill, and Boca Raton. Most likely, Team Orlando will travel to Boca Raton for the Aug. 10-15, 2014, games hosted by the Levis JCC. Athletes must be Jewish and between the ages of 13 and 16 as of July 31, 2014, to participate.

Jesse Render

More than 130,000 teens have benefited from the JCC Maccabi Games since their founding. The energy and excitement make it a unique and unforgettable experience for every participant. Athletes enjoy much more than sports. In addition to meeting other Jewish teens from many different communities, they are able to do something meaningful for others through the JCC Cares! This year’s JCC Cares project brought teens together to discuss the topic of bullying. The teens enjoy home hospitality and many social events, allowing them to get a taste of what Austin has to offer.

To learn more about the JCC Maccabi Games, contact Robby Etzkin, Roth JCC assistant executive director, at RobbyE@orlandojcc.org or at 407-621-4031.


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