38 St. Louis kids heading to Maccabi Games in San Diego

For+many+of+the+athletes%2C+even+the+older+ones%2C+this+summer+will+be+the+first+time+participating+in+the+event+which%2C+since+2020%2C+was+canceled+due+to+the+pandemic.+

For many of the athletes, even the older ones, this summer will be the first time participating in the event which, since 2020, was canceled due to the pandemic.

Jordan Palmer, Chief Digital Content Officer

The JCC Maccabi Games are unique in that participating in the games is more important than winning them.  July 31 marks the beginning of the annual summer event where more than 1,500 Jewish teens ages 12-16 will travel to San Diego to participate in the weeklong Olympic-style event.

For many of the athletes, even the older ones, this summer will be the first time participating in the event which since 2020, was canceled due to the pandemic. The San Diego JCC Maccabi Games will be the first in three years, and though things have changed, athletes and coaches hope it will be a fresh start and an opportunity to reprioritize what they believe the games are all about.

In addition to the games’ 12 events and the added JCC Maccabi Access Games for athletes with disabilities, the Maccabi Games have grown from a sporting spectacle to a week of cultural immersion, with many athletes staying with local host families, participating in weekly tikkun olam projects and visiting local tourist attractions.

The St. Louis Maccabi Delegation

This year 38 athletes comprise the St. Louis delegation. The group is fielding both a full 14 and under (14U) basketball team, a full 16U basketball team and 14U and 16U mixed baseball teams, in which St. Louis players will be matched up with kids from other cities to complete a team. In addition, 14U and 16U mixed boys soccer team, a 16U mixed girls soccer team and individual swimmers will compete.

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For Congregation Shaare Emeth member Courtney Buxner, whose twin sons Bodie and Cooper, 14, are playing basketball for the 14U team, the games mean much more than just athletic competition.

“We hope they meet other Jewish kids like themselves and have a blast playing a little basketball together.,” said Buxner.  “The boys do not play on the same teams during the year so being able to share this experience is truly special, not to mention seeing San Diego, the boys have never been to California.”

“I play competitive basketball on several teams in town and have played travel ball against some of the best 7th-grade teams in the Midwest, so playing in an Olympics-style event is awesome,” said Bodie, who will be an 8th grader at Ladue Middle School this fall.

Added Cooper: “I am more of a recreational player and love to just hoop with my Ladue friends on our school team.  It’s great exercise and I love playing with my friends. Plus, I love to talk trash to my brother about basketball because it drives him crazy.”

Noah Murov, 13, also a Ladue Middle School student, eats, lives, and breathes basketball, according to his mother Lauren.

Murov’s family also belongs to Shaare Emeth. They hosted two players from Houston in 2016, when the Maccabi Games were in St. Louis.

“It really is the coolest event. Seeing 2,000 Jewish kids coming together and feeling a strong connection to each other and the community. And doing that while playing sports they love, it’s just amazing,” said Murov.

Hosting is part of the games

Like the Murovs in 2016, some 500 families in San Diego are hosting athletes from 69 delegations all over North America, Mexico and Israel.

Mark Manlin’s family also hosted two athletes from Los Angeles in 2016. The experience made a very positive impression on his son, Sam, 14, who will be a freshman at Ladue Horton Watkins this fall. So, when the opportunity arose for Sam to compete, he jumped at the opportunity. Sam, will join Bodie, Cooper, and Noah on the 14U basketball team.

Like Buxer, Manlin, another Shaare Emeth congregant, hopes the experience for his son is more than just the thrill of the competition.

“Hopefully it will leave an impression of not only the critical importance of teamwork but teamwork with a group of other young men with the shared identity of Judaism. I would hope this provides him the opportunity to appreciate the pride of being a Jew and representing his city,” said Manlin. “If Sam comes home and says that he had a great time, made some good friends with kids from other cities, and says he played hard that will be what matters.”

The 2022 JCC Maccabi Games in San Diego begin July 31 and run through August 5th. The Jewish Light will keep you posted on how the St. Louis delegation does as the games proceed.