St. Louis sends 53 to Maccabi games


The St. Louis area will be represented at this year’s JCC Maccabi Games in Houston by 53 Jewish teenagers who will be competing in basketball, flag football, tennis, basketball, baseball, dance, swimming and soccer.

“This is my first time competing at this kind of level,” Chase Loevy, 15-year-old swim team member, said. “I would like to do well but I’m not putting myself in that position of pushing to place or medal. I just want to have fun.” Loevy’s sentiment was echoed by some of her teammates who put the experience of participating above the quest for medals. “This is my third year going to the Maccabi Games,” Jeremy Lang, 15-year-old pitcher for the baseball team, said. “I have friends from previous games who I’m still in contact with. The opening ceremonies are one of my favorite parts because we socialize and trade pins and jerseys and meet a lot of people from all over the world.”

These Jewish Olympic-style games offer Jewish teenagers the opportunity to participate in sports while learning about community involvement, teamwork, and pride in being Jewish. “It’s really amazing,” Sam Margo, 10th-grader at John Burroughs and member of the basketball team, said. “There will be kids coming from all over like Australia and Venezuela. You never really get an opportunity to represent your city like this.”

Like most of the other athletes, for Loevy, Lang, and Margo, participating in the Maccabi Games is an extension of their involvement in sports as well as the Jewish community. Loevy, who volunteered at Camp Nat Koplar, has been swimming since she was six years old. She is a member of the JCC’s swim team and Parkway North’s dance team. “Preparing for Maccabi has been a lot of work but it’s made me feel more and more comfortable about competing at this level,” Loevy, a member of United Hebrew Congregation, said. Lang, who has been playing baseball since second grade, received his first pitching lesson from the legendary Major Leaguer Ken Holtzman. “He taught me the fundamentals and really got me to work on my follow-through,” Lang, also a student at Parkway North and a camp counselor at Koplar, said. He is vice president of membership and communications for United Hebrew’s youth group and involved in regional activities of National Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY).

Continuing the trend of long-time involvement in sports, Margo has been playing basketball since kindergarten. Active in the youth group at Central Reform Congregation, he has made new friends through his participation on the Maccabi basketball team. “Everyone is easy to get along with and outside of practice we’ll play basketball together at pick-up games.” Having heard about the great Maccabi experience from other friends, Margo gave up going to summer camp in Maine this year to try out for the Maccabi team. He hasn’t been disappointed by his choice. “I’ve made a lot of good friends, which is the biggest part of it. These are people I would not have met if I hadn’t participated in Maccabi.”

The St. Louis contingent left for Houston on Sunday, Aug. 5 and will return home Aug. 10. Houston is expecting over 1,300 athletes from around the U.S.A. and abroad, over 300 coaches, and 8,000-plus attendees at the opening ceremonies.