Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Who We Are, What We Do

Some background …

Maccabi USA is the governing body which coordinates the participation of Jewish athletes from the United States in the World Maccabiah Games, as well as the Maccabi Australia International Games, the European Maccabi Games, and the Pan American Maccabi Games. As our mission statement proclaims, “Maccabi USA endeavors, through sports, to perpetuate and preserve the American Jewish community by encouraging Jewish pride, strengthening Jewish bonds and by creating a heightened awareness of Israel and Jewish identity.”

In total, Maccabi Team USA is more than 1,130 members strong, the largest delegation EVER to travel from the U.S. to compete in an International Olympic Committee-sanctioned event. We’ll also have the support of more than 300 friends and family that will travel to Israel to cheer us on, along with all our friends and family back home. It’s truly awesome to be part of this delegation.

I’m proud to be affiliated with Maccabi USA as an athlete and Board Member. But as anyone who has volunteered their time knows, volunteer work is inspiring, energizing, and exhilarating and challenging, demanding, and exhausting, all at the same time. For this year’s Maccabiah, I was named chair for the Open Ten-Pin Bowling Team, which gave me the responsibility of selecting this year’s six-man roster and raising some additional funds in support of our efforts. While I never thought it would be all roses and daisies, there were days and weeks it was tough to even find a petal.

Every time the Maccabiah approaches, the joke among bowlers (especially from the U.S.) is that we need to find bowlers … who are Jewish … who are competitive … who can commit to a three-week experience … and who can meet the financial commitment. Each additional requirement reduces the potential talent pool exponentially. And while I’m sure all sports face these challenges in their own way, I can only tell you from personal experience how comical and frustrating this really is.

There were a lot of ups and downs, and there were times it really seemed the ups would never come. For example, in October 2012, as we were reviewing and interviewing applicants, we thought our Men’s Team was in very good shape as we had a strong pool of top-flight bowlers. Unlike other delegations, our bowlers don’t usually have the chance to get together in advance of the Maccabiah. For various reasons, we did away with on-site tryouts after the 2001 Games and have relied on other means of evaluating interested bowlers. So when the talent pool presented us with many bowlers who could ably represent us in Israel, we felt were in very good stead. And then the bottom started to fall out.

As I mentioned, representing the U.S. in the Maccabiah is a three-week commitment. Many of the athletes are at a point in their life where they are on break from school or have other flexibility in their schedule and can take this time away from home and work. Historically, though, bowlers tend to be at a point where they are into their career, have a family, and are not able to commit three weeks away from those responsibilities – that’s one of the requirements that reduces our potential talent pool. And so it went that in a matter of days, three athletes all removed their names from consideration because they couldn’t commit the time. Then the bottom continued to fall out…

I’ll finish our brief walk down memory lane (get it, lane) in my next post. But I can’t continue without mentioning my dear friend, Meryl Romeu, who for most of this experience was my co-chair and was set to be an athlete for these Games, as well. Since we met eight years ago, prior to competing together in the 17th World Maccabiah Games, we’ve become close friends and great supporters of one another. When the opportunity to co-chair the Ten-Pin Bowling Team for the 2011 European Maccabi Games in Vienna came along, we both jumped at the chance and jumped even faster to serve as co-chairs again for these Games. In April, when the decision was made not to send a Women’s Bowling Team (more to come on that in my next post), I assumed responsibility as chair for the Men’s Open Ten-Pin Bowling Team. Since that time, it is has been my goal to lead this team with the same sense of commitment, respect, and love Meryl demonstrated. While I’m truly saddened to complete this experience without Meryl as my partner, she is always part of our Maccabi Bowling Family. Always.

HaKarat haTov: Finally, it’s a great opportunity to “recognize the good work” of Maccabi USA. Recently, Maccabi USA was selected by the United States Olympic Committee as one of 35 Multi-Sport Organization partners for its ability to cultivate a national interest in sport and increase opportunities for participation internationally, nationally and at the grassroots level. And, just this week, in pursuit of using sports to create heightened awareness of Israel and Jewish identity, Maccabi USA recently raised money to ensure that the Bulgarian and Romanian teams – who are both dealing with major financial issues – are able to participate in the upcoming Maccabiah. Kol HaKavod to us all!

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