web analytics
August 5, 2015 / 20 Av, 5775
At a Glance
News & Views
Sponsored Post


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.

Current Top Story
US Secy of State John Kerry announcing nuclear agreement with Iran from Vienna.
Israel Law Center Files Motion to Block IranDeal in NY Federal Court
Latest News Stories
US Secy of State John Kerry announcing nuclear agreement with Iran from Vienna.

The Israel Law Center has filed a motion in US court to block Washington from implementing Irandeal.

IDF soldiers training from the IDF Caracal battalion which is made up of male and female combat soldiers fighting side by side.

The Lions of Jordan have been joined by lionesses; together they will guard Israel’s Jordan Valley.

Grafitti on the walls of the Church of the Multiplication at Tabgha, on the Sea of Galilee, in northern Israel, which was set on fire in June 2015.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon jails a Jewish teen under administrative detention in connection with a church arson in June.

US Vice President Joseph Biden, President Barack Obama.

US President Barack Obama warns Jewish leaders Israel “will bear the brunt” if Congress rejects nuclear deal with Iran.

Yesterday’s count had four Congressional Democrats coming out against the Iran Nuclear Deal. But since yesterday, that number has nearly doubled. And, amazingly, the latest three are all Jewish members of Congress. That’s a surprise because in their effort to appear impartial, many Jews in public office bend over backwards to avoid the appearance that they are […]

The Senator said he would discuss gun control, or anything else, really, just not how he would vote on the Iran nuclear deal.

“Keep or Cheat,” under this deal Iran will attain nuclear weapons, Bibi warned.

Arabs threw 2 firebombs at bus #160 in Gush Etzion on Tuesday evening. No injuries or damage were reported, but the road was temporarily blocked by a wall of fire. In the Shomron, Arabs threw a firebomb at an unmanned pillbox, from a passing car.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits Inbar Azrak, 27 who was wounded in Monday night’s firebomb attack in Beit Hanina. Azrak is being treated at the Hadassah Ein Kerem medical center in Jerusalem.

The worst heat wave to hit the Middle East in more than a decade has claimed its second victim in Israel.

The non-Jewish tourist tried to wave an Israeli flag when he was set upon by the Islamic mob.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon says he’s ready to present the new state budget to the cabinet Wednesday.

Minister Yuval Steinitz says “if he were American he would oppose the deal with Iran” and explains why.

A German neo-Nazi politician is accepted to the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee.

The Obama administration may intervene in the NY federal district court judgment against the PA.

The Maccabi Games made it to Berlin but anti-Semitism was hardly left behind.

More Articles from JTA

More than 20 cars and buildings in a Jewish community in north London were vandalized with swastikas. The Nazi symbol was drawn on approximately 27 cars in the Osbaldeston Road area of Stoke Newington on Sunday night, The Daily Mail reported. An unnamed 32-year-old man was arrested in connection with the vandalism Tuesday. The neighborhood […]

New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind called on the Jewish community to attend the funeral of an assassinated New York police officer. “The brave men and women of the NYPD risk their lives every day to protect us. We value them and stand with them,” Hikind, a Democrat who represents Brooklyn, said in a statement […]

“Move Jew” scrawled on a Philadelphia home and slurs written on a synagogue and 10 garages in Chicago.

The Nazis nearly destroyed the 17th synagogue.

Cuba has “the largest pool of untapped baseball talent in the world, and Major League Baseball may tap and leave Cuba dry.

Argentina’s president Christina Fernandez has accepted an official Jewish godson for the first time in the country’s history to help counter legend of death to a seventh son. She described in seven tweets her meeting with her new godson, Yair Tawil, a member of a Chabad-Lubavitch family. He was adopted as a godson under a […]

A fundraising campaign started quietly by two first graders two years ago to help find a cure for a rare genetic disease just passed the $1 million mark.

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: