web analytics
September 16, 2014 / 21 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
News & Views
Sponsored Post
Apartment 758x530 Africa-Israel at the Israel Real Estate Exhibition in New York

Africa Israel Residences, part of the Africa Israel Investments Group led by international businessman Lev Leviev, will present 7 leading projects on the The Israel Real Estate Exhibition in New York on Sep 14-15, 2014.



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.”

The final blessing chanted, Greyber led the singing of “Siman Tov.” Candies flew onto the podium. Tears were wiped. Members of the two rugby teams leapt from their front-row chairs and posed near the stone wall overlooking the hills. Some did a jig in the seating area.

Greyber offered another song, and then another. Tisha B’Av was just about over, but the celebration wasn’t. Athletes jumped onto the podium to pose with their rabbi, who offered one last thought to those milling about.

“We are blessed to be here together,” Greyber said. “I have no idea what great and amazing things will come from this moment, but I am sure that within you is the infinity of God’s goodness.”

Rosener emerged fulfilled.

“I was in the moment, surrounded by other people, saying the blessing. I felt complete,” Rosener said. “Something was added that had been missing from my life.”

This article was written by Hillel Kuttler for JTA.

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
rocketpopmap12009
IDF Confirms: Rocket Launched from Gaza
Latest News Stories
rocketpopmap12009

The IDF has confirmed that a rocket was launched from Gaza at approximately 6:30pm on Tuesday.

Arsonists set fire to a Brussels synagogue that was firebombed in 20190, but Jewish officials are not ready to declare the incident as anti-Semitic. The wife and two children of the synagogue’s caretaker, who was not present at the time of the arson, suffered slight smoke inhalation after the fire broke out on the fourth […]

Sabra 'hummus" - made in Israel and be bought in the United States

If you don’t live in Israel, at least ‘Buy Israel.”

One dollar now buys 3.64 shekels, nearly 25 agorot more than two months ago.

The higher rate is good news for Israelis with dollar accounts and for U.S. tourists.

A guide at the Gush Etzion Zoo (bet you didn’t there was one of those in Gush Etzion) explains to Junior High School students how to extract the ram horn shell after it dried, and eventually make it into a shofar, on September 15, 2014.

“Jewish teams’ are more proud to win than proud to be Jewish.

A prison inmate on death row in Connecticut is demanding kosher food, though he’s not really Jewish.

There were reports that ISIS shot down a Syrian regime’s war plane over its “capital,” Raqqa.

An eight year old boy was struck and killed in a parking lot by a school bus Tuesday at Kibbutz Kfar Menachem.

A new cancer treatment to fight metastatic melanoma, Keytruda, has been approved by the FDA.

Finance Minister Yair Lapid refuses to raise taxes and won’t let defense budget demands turn into a ‘Turkish bazaar.’

Turkey has offered to host the Egyptian leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood after their eviction from Qatar.

Israel is cracking down on Arab attackers determined to harm Jews in Jerusalem and around the country.

For the first time, US warplanes bombed ISIS terrorists near Baghdad in support of Iraqi troops.

Oskar Groening’s defense is that he only was cog in the Nazi death machine.

The US warns people to buy gas masks if visiting, Israel warns of world-wide anti-Semitism.

More Articles from JTA
Unwelcome sign for Jews.

This happened in Britain in 2014, not in Germany in 1939.

Jean-Marie Le Pen and her far right National Front party's anti-Islamization platform is drawing support from Jews.

Anti-radical Islam begins to trump anti-Semitism.

Search warrants unsealed in Quebec allege that the Haredi Lev Tahor sect trafficked in human cargo and committed other abuses. The documents also reveal that Interpol and Israel helped build the criminal case against the group before its 250 members fled to Guatemala in March with leader Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans. The list of charges in […]

Free speech on on the Ohio U. campus is restricted to anti-Zionists.

There still is hope for intelligent life on the anti-Israel campuses.

Just what we don’t need is some amateur, even if he is right, making headlines with a claim that Jack the Ripper was a Jew.

Greek police officers are among those who support the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party.

Check back in nine months to find out if rocket attacks have the same effect.

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: