OPINION: The power of sport in connecting young Jews

OPINION: The power of sport in connecting young Jews

Selfie with all the junior athletes
Selfie with all the junior athletes

by Stacey Abendstern, MASA UK Representative, Maccabi Games 2015

Junior Management Team
Junior Management Team (Photo credit: Stacey Abendstern)

Nearly two years ago, I was chosen to be part of the Junior Management team for the European Maccabi Games 2015. I knew it was going to be something special but nothing could have prepared me for the emotions I felt and the experience I had this July.

Before the games commenced, all the GB athletes participated in a Jewish Identity pre-camp which was written and prepared specifically for the European Maccabi Games and for the young athletes and I had the great opportunity of leading the pre-camp with the rest of my team.

The camp was two days long and involved running activities at different sites such as platform 17 and memorials for the homosexuals, Roma Sinti community and the Jewish people.

The activities at each site were relevant to the athletes, so they had a better understanding about the history of Berlin and they connected themselves with their Jewish Identity.

One of the most powerful moments at the European Maccabi Games was the Opening Ceremony.

Specifically, the moment when Team GB walked into the stadium in front of a screaming crowd of thousands.

The stadium we walked into was Berlin’s Olympic Park Amphitheatre which was used for propaganda purposes during the Olympic games in 1936. The Olympic Games, during which the Jews were not allowed to compete in during Nazi Germany. Yet, only 70 years later, one of the largest Jewish sporting events is being held in Berlin and celebrated in this specific stadium.

I felt proud to be Jewish and proud to be a part of team Maccabi GB.

Even writing about this experience will never do it the justice of how it felt to be there at that moment.

It was an amazing opportunity to be able to manage and support the GB Junior athletes.

We watched them on their journeys from training and bonding with their team, learning at the Jewish Identity pre-camp to playing sport against Jewish teams from other countries. I was proud to see the sportsmanship that the GB athletes held throughout the competition.

Although the athletes were competing for medals, this didn’t stop them making friends for life with other athletes they were competing against.

The athletes had a positive spirit and attitude throughout the 10 days which showed great leadership qualities.

It makes me excited to see what they will do next in their community and hopefully, in a couple of years’ time, they will be a part of their University J-Soc and even on their J-Soc committee!

Overall, Team GB took home 101 medals. It was amazing to see some of the current Jewish students play in Berlin and contribute to this medal win!

The European Maccabi Games 2015 made me truly understand how powerful it is to connect Jews through sport. This excites and motivates me when planning the Masa and UJS event JUEFA (which is on Sunday 8th November 2015).

I one-hundred percent believe that you don’t need to be the next David Beckham or Mia Hamm to have fun whilst playing sport and connecting with other Jews.

I hope that everyone who is thinking of participating in JUEFA this year believes this too – see you there!

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