Meet the Maccabi athletes

Halle Wasserman

Compiled by Hannah Snidman

Halle Wasserman

Delegation: St. Louis

Age: 12

Sport: Volleyball, setter

Number of years playing in Maccabi Games: First year

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What are you most looking forward to about the week?

I’m excited to play, meet people from other states, and do the evening activities with the other athletes. 

What do you think about competing with athletes that share your religion?

It’s neat to meet other Jewish kids from Israel and around the country.


Max Baker

Delegation: St. Louis

Age: 16

Sport: Tennis

Number of years playing in Maccabi Games: Second year 

What are the advantages to St. Louis hosting the Games?

The experience will be unique because the people who are hosting will get to meet other kids from around the world. Also, I have a home-field advantage because I am familiar with everything. I will also be a leader and help kids navigate their ways to the different venues.  


Ben Leshin

Delegation: Phoenix, Ariz.

Age: 14

Sport: Football, wide receiver

Number of years playing in Maccabi Games: First year

What do you think about competing with athletes that share your religion?

It doesn’t really feel any different to me that I’m competing against all Jews. However, it does feel really cool to be playing next to and against (other Jewish teenagers). 


Matthew Zlotnicki

Delegation: Baltimore/ Greater Washington

Age: 16

Sport: Basketball, guard

Years playing in Maccabi Games: Fourth year 

How did you get interested in the Maccabi Games?

My dad also did Maccabi when he was my age and introduced me to it, and I have loved it ever since.

What would you tell athletes who have never played in the Maccabi Games?  

Go into the games with no expectations and just let yourself have the greatest time of your life because you will exceed whatever expectations you have. 


Matthew Bloom

Delegation: St. Louis

Age: 16

Sport: Tennis

Number of years playing in Maccabi Games: First year

Which events do you plan on watching?

I am interested in watching every sport because I think they are all fun and interesting. I also want to cheer the St. Louis athletes in any sport they are playing. 

How do you feel about competing with all Jewish athletes?

To me, it means that we are all one big family and we are all connected. This is what I also love about camp and youth group. 


Ev Nichol

Delegation: Memphis

Age: 15

Sport: Swimming, freestyle, backstroke, butterfly

Number of years playing in Maccabi Games: Second year

How do you feel about competing with all Jewish athletes?

Knowing that everybody I am competing with is Jewish makes me feel more connected. Everyone there will be connected in the same way and will have a common reason for being there. 


Cole Petch

Delegation:  St. Louis

Age: 13

Sport: Basketball, guard

Years playing in Maccabi Games:  First year

How do you feel about St. Louis hosting the Games?

I think it will be fun having kids from other states and Israel come to our city. It’s going to be an amazing time showing them what the Show-Me State has to offer. 

How do you feel about playing with all Jewish athletes?

I think competing against kids that are only Jewish is great. It not only brings Jews together in something like sports, but also religion, which we all practice and love. This is going to bring us together, making us foes during competition, but family when this is all over.


JJ Lerner

Delegation:  St. Louis

Age: 13

Sport: Baseball, middle infielder/pitcher

Years playing in Maccabi Games:  First year 

How do you feel about St. Louis hosting this year?

I’m excited. People from all around the world are participating.

What are you most excited about?

I’m really looking forward to hosting other athletes in our home. This will be a fun and new experience. 


Maddy Ball

Delegation: Boca Raton, Fla.

Age: 15

Sport: Volleyball, right side hitter

Years playing in Maccabi Games:  Third year

In addition to your sport, what other sports do you enjoy watching?

Besides volleyball, I love watching soccer since I played before starting and falling in love with volleyball.

What are you hoping to do in St. Louis in addition to the Games?

I have never been to St. Louis, but I am looking forward to meeting many new people at Maccabi and touring St. Louis during our evening activities.


Grant Krain-Einhorn

Delegation: South Jersey

Age: 15

Sport: Soccer, defense

Years playing in Maccabi Games:  Second year

What are you most looking forward to?

I love playing soccer and love socializing. Maccabi is a great way to play soccer and socialize.  Last year alone, I met many friends that I talk to today and I would love to make more.

How do you feel about competing against all Jewish athletes?

Because every athlete is Jewish, it makes me feel good. It makes me feel safe because I am surrounded by other Jews that practice the same religion as me. 


Olivia Galel

Delegation:  Boca Raton, Fla.

Age: 15

Sport: Volleyball, hitter

Years playing in Maccabi Games:  Second year

Why did you decide to participate in the Maccabi Games?

My older sister, Alex, who is 22 now, played for the Maccabi Games. Hearing all about the amazing experiences she had made me want to experience it myself.  

What does competing with all Jewish teens mean to you?

The feeling that I got last summer at opening ceremony was completely breathtaking. Standing in a stadium with hundreds of other Jewish teenage athletes was completely mind-blowing.  Standing with my team and everyone else singing “Hatikvah” in unity is such a special moment.  Going to a Jewish day school, I learn to value Judaism and take pride in being a Jew. My grandparents are Holocaust survivors, so over the years, I’ve really learned to appreciate the freedom of being a Jew.


Nia Kepes

Delegation:  Detroit

Age: 14

Sport:  Volleyball, middle hitter

Years playing in Maccabi Games: Second year

How were the 2015 Maccabi Games?

Last year, my volleyball team worked together and went undefeated the whole entire week to win the gold medal. Throughout the week, we supported each other and worked together. It felt amazing to be able to be part of a team, work hard to win, and have fun playing volleyball together at the same time.


Eitan Fredman

Delegation:  St. Louis

Age: 13

Sport: Golf

Years playing in Maccabi Games:  First year

What got you initially interested in the Games?

I’ve always loved sports, but the idea of playing them with other Jewish people from around the world sounded exciting.

How do you feel about competing with all Jewish athletes?

Excited and looking forward to it. It’s not just about the competition and the sports, it’s also about building friendships.