Local athletes, doctor prepare for Maccabiah Games

Dr. Brian Laiderman

By David Baugher, Special to the Jewish Light

When the Maccabiah Games kick off in Israel this summer, St. Louis will not go unrepresented. Three individuals from the area will accompany the United States team in the competitions set for late July. 

“I cannot wait,” said Brian Laiderman. “That’s the one thing I’m most excited about is the opportunity to give back and help support the Jewish community.”

Laiderman is the only one of the crew who won’t be going as an athlete. The chiropractic physician will put his masters in sports science and rehabilitation to work on the medical staff for Team USA, something he already does at Harris-Stowe State University.

“I’m really looking forward to coming back and using my experiences in Israel to help me expand within the Jewish community,” said Laiderman, a United Hebrew congregant who practices at Chesterfield’s Optimal Performance Center, “and give back to the whole Jewish community as opposed to just my synagogue or the J.”

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The O’Fallon resident said he was originally set to be a physician helping out various teams who couldn’t bring their own medical staff but then Team USA contacted him and he is now going to assist the red, white and blue.

In addition to his other activities, Laiderman is a coach for a local half-marathon youth program and runs and bikes competitively himself.

“I’m looking forward to it. Right now, I work with a lot oflocal high schoolers and cross country track and field teams,” he said. “I also work with a lot of elite endurance athletes through different triathlon and running clubs here in St. Louis.”

Laiderman won’t be alone. Native St. Louisan Sarina Dayan is also headed to the Jewish State.

“I’m really excited to get to know not only the girls that I’m going to be playing with but also those from other countries that I’ll be competing against,” said Dayan, 15, a freshman at Kirkwood High School.

Dayan will get a shot to practice her skills in soccer, a sport she’s loved since grade school. She’s already begun to communicate with some of her teammates thanks to social media.

“They’re all on Facebook so we’ve been talking a little there and getting to know each other,” she said.

The Shaare Emeth congregant hopes the visit to the Holy Land will expand her cultural horizons but it isn’t her first time in Israel. In fact, her father, Tzion, is a native.

She expects the competition will be stiff but the other aspects of the journey are just as important.

“I think it is going to help me grow as a person to meet new people who are from different areas,” she said. “It will help me to learn from them and become a better person in the end.”

Her mother, Hannah, calls it a once-in-a-lifetime chance.

“I think meeting players from other countries will be huge,” she said. “She’ll learn a ton in this environment just in terms of communication, playing soccer, being in another country, sharing quarters with people you don’t know.”

Dayan said she is raising money to pay for the trip, which costs $8,000. According to her fundraising web page, she is just past the $4,000 mark (to donate, visit http://goo.gl/5Cdpd).

David Binstock, 20, is also Israel-bound. The Chicago-area native who is now studying mechanical engineering at Washington University will get the chance to pursue his passion for the martial arts, which he has studied for a dozen years.

“Karate is particularly cool because it is not just a sport,” he said. “It has also has a culture and almost a theology that comes along with it that’s passed down from Japan. There is a quasi-spiritual aspect of it that’s very meditative. There’s a certain consciousness that comes along with the sport.”

He likes that the endeavor is one in which you are truly using only your body.

“You have to be very in touch with yourself and your physicality whereas in other sports you are using the ball,” he said. “This is something where it is all you.”

Binstock, a black belt who eventually hopes to pursue a career in a field related to sustainability, said he’s happy to visit the Jewish homeland.

“It’s a privilege for a 21st century Jew to be able to participate in such a sporting event, especially in Israel,” he said.

It is, however, not his first time there. Several years ago, he was a junior participant in the games where he netted a silver medal. He recalled that the experience of interacting with the other Jewish athletes was very special.

“It was eye-opening to see that,” he said. “It was cool to see Jews coming together from all over, just participating together.”

Plus, he’ll get to bring a bit of the Midwest to the Mideast.

“I get to be a liaison, a representative,” he said. “I get to describe the Jewish life here.”