web analytics
August 29, 2014 / 3 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
News & Views
Sponsored Post
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (L) visits the JewishPress.com booth at The Event. And the Winners of the JewishPress.com Raffle Are…

Congratulations to all the winners of the JewishPress.com raffle at The Event



Maccabiah Games Draw US Athletes to Become ‘Bar Mitzvah’

For American athletes, the Maccabiah sports even proves the games are about more than sports. Several of the American Jewish athletes were inspired to become Bar Mitzvah.
By:
Athletes from the Australian delegation wave their national flags during the opening ceremony of the Maccabiah Games in Jerusalem for the 19th Maccabiah Games, dubbed the 'Jewish Olympics'

Athletes from the Australian delegation wave their national flags during the opening ceremony of the Maccabiah Games in Jerusalem for the 19th Maccabiah Games, dubbed the 'Jewish Olympics'
Photo Credit: Flash 90

Luke Rosener removed his orange T-shirt, changed into a white dress shirt and alighted from a chartered bus.

The garb was a far cry from the uniform Rosener will wear while playing for the U.S. volleyball team at the Maccabiah, the 78-nation sports competition that began in Israel last week. The Cupertino, Calif., native’s attire was more befitting a religious ceremony — in this case, his bar mitzvah.

Rosener, 22, had never had a bar mitzvah, owing to his family’s financial situation and his early struggles with dyslexia. But as part of the 1,200-member U.S. Maccabiah delegation, Rosener encountered a ready-made opportunity to become a bar mitzvah alongside scores of new friends also celebrating the traditional rite of passage.

That’s because Maccabi USA, the American branch of the international sports movement, brings participants to Israel a week before the competition for a mandatory program of touring and discussions rich in Jewish content. In recent years, the program, known as Israel Connect, has featured a mass bar mitzvah ceremony for participants who never had one.

“There’s so much more to [the Maccabiah] than playing sports,” said Jeffrey Bukantz, Maccabi USA’s general chairman and a former fencing Olympian. “We really do consider it the flagship of the program. It’s to the point that Israel Connect is more important than the actual sports. The kids are really impacted by the program.”

On the lush grounds of a reception center in the hills west of Jerusalem, a mile beyond the Elvis Inn pub guarded by a white statue of the King, the delegation gathered in the setting sun Tuesday for the ceremony. The entry hall’s long red carpet was lined with red, white and blue balloons and round tables in the vast garden were stacked with wrapped presents.

The Tuesday ceremony coincided with Tisha B’Av, the 25-hour fast commemorating the destruction of both Holy Temples — a day on which celebrations are frowned upon. But as he prepared to chant the Torah portion designated for the closing hours of many fast days, Daniel Greyber, the delegation’s official rabbi, offered a fresh perspective.

“The afternoon of Tisha B’Av is a time of rebuilding, of looking forward,” Greyber said. “The bnai mitzvah ceremony connects us to the Jewish people — not only in this world at this time, but for all of history. In that regard, it requires celebrating.”

Along with the U.S. team’s assistant rabbi, Noam Raucher, Greyber led the crowd in spirited singing. And he punctuated the Torah reading with references to group discussions he had led the previous day covering biblical events and their relevance today.

Dave Blackburn, a star softball pitcher who has competed in six Maccabiah Games, recited Birkat HaGomel, traditionally recited by those who have escaped harm. In 2009, Blackburn was nearly killed in a car crash, an accident that claimed his right leg below the knee and broke 27 bones.

“I’ve lived to share this Maccabiah experience with you, my extended family,” Blackburn said from his wheelchair.

Greyber called the Maccabiah participants to the Torah in three groups, and as the last one ascended the podium, he called for attention.

“Everyone, look at the miracle that is happening,” said Greyber, “as the sun goes down over Jerusalem, as this group that has never been to Israel and never had a bar or bat mitzvah is having an aliyah for the first time.”

Then Blackburn’s nephew Landon stepped forward. “My uncle,” he began, struggling through tears to get the words out, “is keeping me alive, and that’s all that matters.”

Landon Blackburn, a wrestler, said later that his uncle’s participation in the games is his most cherished aspect of the trip. His own father would not have permitted him to participate without his uncle’s influence, he said.

A native of La Porte, Ind., Landon, 18, said he grew up celebrating Jewish holidays, but as a rebellious child opted not to have a bar mitzvah.

“But all that did was make my life harder, that the weight of the world was on my shoulders,” he said. “I didn’t have anything to help me cope with the hardships of life.” he said.

Having this bar mitzvah, he said, makes him feel “100 percent better about my outlook on life.”

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

One Response to “Maccabiah Games Draw US Athletes to Become ‘Bar Mitzvah’”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Jewish Comedienne Joan Rivers gives an impromptu speech on why Hamas should be wiped out.
Joan Rivers in Critical Condition
Latest News Stories
Jewish Comedienne Joan Rivers gives an impromptu speech on why Hamas should be wiped out.

We wish a speedy recovery to Joan Rivers, the straight-shooting Jewish comedienne whose exact analysis of the war was, “Hamas started it.”

An IDF soldier who was critically injured last week by a rocket that hit Ashdod died from his wounds today. He is Israel’s 71st casualty in the war. Sergeant Natanel Maman, 21, from Gan Yavne, an Ordnance Corps soldier, was critically injured by a rocket that hit Ashdod last Friday. He was promoted posthumously from […]

Imam speaks against ISIS to a  Michigan"crowd" of approximately 50 people.

More than 200,000 Muslims live in Michigan. Fifty of them showed up for a protest against ISIS.

Eulogy at funeral fro Lakewood, New Jersey Yeshiva student Aaron Sofer.

Sofer, who may have died from dehydration after falling in a ravine while hiking, is being buried in Beit Shemesh.

The Boycott Israel movement, so far, is more bark than bite.

The bad news is that ISIS and Al Qaeda are on the Syrian Golan. The good news is that every terrorist in Syria is killing each other.

Netanyahu gets support from Congressmen on House Armed Services Committee

Some Chareidi entertainers thrilled the crowd on Jerusalem’s Ben Yehuda Street with some Jewish entertainment.    

Hamas’ supreme leader Khaled Mashaal dashed any hopes of long-term peace with Israel in a speech in Qatar on Thursday in which he shot from the hip at Israel and also at his terrorist organization’s new partner, the rival Fatah movement headed by Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas. His lengthy speech in Qatar, which has […]

Many of the Syrian soldiers were not armed when ISIS captured and then slaughtered them.

Police are still working to confirm the identity of a body that was found by searchers hunting for missing yeshiva student Aharon Sofer.

Iconic pro-Israel comedian Joan Rivers is in critical condition following a throat procedure.

UN troops fled their posts along the Syrian-Israel border after they decided it was too dangerous for them to do their job.

In the wake of a 12th Israel-Gaza cease-fire, Britain’s Jews and Muslims have issued a joint call for peace.

The investigation shed light on the movements of the drug traffickers operating under Hezbollah’s direction in Lebanon and Israel.

Drug dealers suspected of aiding Hezbollah make inroads into Israel; smuggling attempts also included Jordan, Syria

More Articles from JTA
Netanyahu meets with Congressional House Armed Services Committee member Howard Buck McKeon.

Netanyahu gets support from Congressmen on House Armed Services Committee

Nearly 200 Hollywood elite, including Sylvester Stallone and Seth Rogen, signed a statement condemning Hamas as its conflict with Israel continues.

Police entered the apartment after relatives were unable to contact the couple.

If you are worried about your child marrying a non-Jew, and you should be, then move to Israel.

If “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” Diaspora Jews are in big trouble.

Al Qaeda wants the US to free terrorists in return for freeing Warren Weinstein.

At least six Haredi protesters were arrested and a police officer was wounded in demonstrations in at least three Israeli cities Sunday following the arrest of a yeshiva student for ignoring a draft notice. Hundreds of protesters blocked busy intersections in Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, Modiin Illit and Beit Shemesh. The yeshiva student has been arrested […]

Police in Melbourne arrested seven pro-Palestinian protesters who stormed the roof of an Israel-based company.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/maccabiah-games-draw-us-athletes-to-become-bar-mitzvah/2013/07/21/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: