A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

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Team STL back from Maccabi Games in Israel with medals and more

The seven St. Louis Jewish teen athletes who traveled to Israel last month for the JCC Maccabi Games are back home after a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

The athletes, Nathan Arst (baseball), Annabel Brockman (tennis), Morgan Cohen (tennis), Noah Kravetz (baseball), Dylan Johns (tennis), Grant Rauner (Star Reporter journalism program) and Alyssa Weisenberg (swimming), were among more than 1,000 Jewish teens from 10 countries competing in the Olympic-style sports event.

The teen athletes arrived in Israel on July 6, for the grand opening ceremonies and to prepare for the competition beginning on July 9. The games lasted one week and then the athletes spent two weeks travelling and learning all around Israel.

“Maccabi is so much more than a competition.  Our delegation met other Jewish teens from across the world and they all experienced Israel together, an experience of a lifetime,” said Emilie Brockman, the Maccabi delegation head. “They competed and no one complained when they didn’t win a game or a match because they had so much fun just being there.  From opening ceremony to the closing party, it was an unforgettable Maccabi experience.”

“I had an amazing experience at Maccabi in Israel,” said Arst, a member of Temple Israel and an incoming senior at Parkway Central High School. “Not only did I get to play my favorite sport, baseball, but I was able to tour an incredible country. I had a meaningful visit to the Western Wall, saw a beautiful view atop Masada and most of all made tons of friends.”

And that is really the point of the games. Also known as the “Jewish Olympics,” its main goals are to bring young Jewish athletes together and strengthen the connection of the participants to the state of Israel and the Jewish people.

“The experience following the competition was super fun. We went to three or four main attractions a day just taking in everything that we could,” said swimmer Weisenberg. “It showed me that Israel was so many different things, and it had a wide range of meanings to different people.”

What the athletes experience during the two weeks can have a powerful and meaningful influence on them.

“I definitely feel different than before. I have a closer connection with Judaism after my time in Israel,” said Arst.

Weisenberg brings home 10 medals

When Weisenberg’s fingertips first hit the pool water inside Afek Sports Center in Hadera, Israel, she knew she was in the right place. Her first event in the 2023 Maccabi Games was the 100-meter butterfly, one of her strongest events.

Alyssa Weisenberg

“I was really excited and ready to start swimming. I was also nervous though because there were no printed-out heat sheets, and no one knew what lane or what heat we were in. It was quite a chaotic first day,” said Weisenberg.

Chaotic, until that first stroke. And then she was literally in her lane.

“The experience in the pool reminded me a lot of why I love swimming so much,” said Weisenberg. “Making new friends with the same ambitions as you and getting to cheer them on and having someone to cheer you on was really a great experience. Knowing that all these people were also Jewish added an extra layer to the experience.”

When the competition ended, Weisenberg, a member of Congregation B’nai Amoona and an incoming senior at Parkway Central, successfully showcased her incredible determination by winning an impressive 10 medals; three gold, four silver and three bronze. For this young athlete, the medals are wonderful, but the once-in-a-lifetime experience will affect her for the rest of her life.

“I was inspired to look beyond what I think I know about any person,” said Weisenberg. “Being able to put all the things that worry me behind and just enjoying the things around me is easy to do in Israel but it made me a better person to be able to just stop and admire the things around me.”


Alyssa Weisenberg and members of her relay team with one of the 10 medals she earned at the Maccabi Games in Israel
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About the Contributor
Jordan Palmer, Chief Digital Content Officer
Jordan worked at KSDK from 1995 to 2020. Jordan is a three-time Emmy award winner who produced every kind of show from news to specials during his tenure, creating Show Me St. Louis, The Cardinal Nation Show. He started ksdk.com in 2001 and won three Edward R. Murrow Awards for journalistic and website excellence in 2010, 2014 and 2020. Jordan has been married for 25 years and is the father of two college students. He is an avid biker, snowboarder, and beer lover. He created the blog drink314.com, focusing on the St. Louis beer community in 2015. Jordan has an incredible and vast knowledge of useless information and is the grandson of a Cleveland bootlegger.