For the first time since the event was founded in 2000, the Greater Baltimore JCC played host to more than 700 middle school athletes, their families and their coaches for last Sunday’s Junior Maccabi Games. The young athletes, ages 10 to 12, competed in baseball, basketball, soccer, tennis and table tennis at the Owings Mills JCC, McDonogh School, Stevenson University, Owings Mills High School, New Town High School and Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School.
The all-day event, which kicked off Saturday night with a pregame party and Havdalah service, was chaired by Larry Plant and Ben Zager and organized by Paul Lurie, senior program director and Junior Maccabi director, and Brad Kerxton, director of middle school services.
“Everyone is here to represent a Jewish community, and all of us are coming together at the games,” said Barak Hermann, president of the JCC, on the day of the event. “It gives us another reason to be proud and to celebrate our Jewish heritage.”
Dan Kurtz of Bucks County, Pa., the father of 11-year-old Olivia, who competed in girls’ soccer for the second year in a row, said the Games were a great experience.
“It was well organized, and they have great facilities. It’s always nice to see a lot of Jewish kids together,” he said. “The games were competitive and honored the spirit of competition, but there was a different feeling than a regular soccer game.”
Stephanie and Marc Cramer of Newtown, Pa., were at the JCC with their 11-year-old son, Ben, a first-time Junior Maccabi basketball player.
“Ben had a great time, meeting kids from other communities,” said Stephanie Cramer. “It was wonderful to see kids playing the games they love with other Jewish kids.
“This facility is amazing,” she added. “We don’t even have a JCC where we live. We have to drive 25 minutes to get to the Princeton/Mercer/Bucks County JCC. Our kids don’t get to be around other Jewish kids like this except at summer camp.”
The Cramers hope their son will participate in the teen Maccabi games when he is old enough.
Cory Rosen’s son, Drew, a 12-year-old Beth Tfiloh student who competed in the basketball competition, plans to participate in the teen Maccabi games next year. Drew plays for his school team and in the Reisterstown recreation league. Rosen, who spends a lot of her time driving her son to his games, was happy that the Junior Maccabi Games took place so close to home.
“Here’s what’s unbelievable,” said Emily Goren, a past Maccabi chair. “When I came in [to work on the Maccabi games] there were 200 kids; [this year] there were almost 800.”
Lurie was equally enthusiastic about the growth of the event.
“At first, the games were more regional. Now we get a great cross-section of participants,” he said. “We have a fantastic steering committee, who had been working to bring this off since January.”
Concession stand volunteer Mark Hotz was happy the weather held up.
“Everyone had a good time, and this really shows off Baltimore and our JCC,” he said.
“We hope they’ll all be inspired to participate in the senior games,” said Hermann. “It’s another experience [for the youngsters] to add to their Jewish memory bank.”
Many Baltimore Athletes Took Home Medals
Avi Goldman — gold
Noah Brenner — gold
Eliav Hamburger — bronze
Baltimore’s gold soccer team — bronze
Emily Freeman — bronze
Jordan Osterweil — silver
Ethan Silverstein — silver
Vladislav Sergiev — bronze
Brendan Stein — silver
Sydney Huber — silver
Ronen Segal — bronze
Jensen Friedman — gold for 200 IM, 500 freestyle
Julia Shpigel — gold for 200 IM, 500 freestyle
Jensen Friedman, Julia Shpigel, Danella Indenbaum, Elyana Fine — gold for girls’ relay