Austin Teens Wrap Up Summer with Maccabi Program

Austin Teens Wrap Up Summer with Maccabi Program

The Austin delegation represented Central Texas during the JCC Maccabi Games and ArtsFest opening ceremonies in Detroit. Photo credit: Rabbi Daniel Septimus.

Austin Teens Shape Jewish Identity at JCC Maccabi Games and ArtsFest 

By Rabbi Daniel Septimus

From August 4-9, 51 athletes and artists from greater Austin, along with Jen Reed, Shalom Austin athletics director, and her tremendous volunteer coaching team experienced a meaningful immersive Jewish experience at the JCC Maccabi Games and ArtsFest, hosted by the JCC of Metropolitan Detroit. Our participants were joined by 1,500 of their peers from North America and countries such as Great Britain and Israel.

Team Austin U14 Boys Soccer won gold at the 2019 JCC Maccabi Games. Credit: Aron Waisman

Team Austin U14 Boys Soccer won gold at the 2019 JCC Maccabi Games. Credit: Aron Waisman

Tomer Britva, Team Austin Maccabi swimmer, with some of the many medals he won. Credit: Aron Waisman.

Tomer Britva, Team Austin Maccabi swimmer, with some of the many medals he won. Credit: Aron Waisman.

The games began with opening ceremonies at Little Caesars Arena, home to the Detroit Pistons and Red Wings. Each delegation has the opportunity to march in together and show pride for their home community. The Israel and Detroit delegations marched in last. Austinites were proud to have one of the larger delegations this year. Once all delegations were situated, the thousands of people present were asked to rise for the national anthems of the United States, Canada and Israel. 

The home community also made a heartfelt tribute to the 11 Israeli athletes and coaches who were killed by terrorists during the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, West Germany. It is an important history lesson for the 1,500 teenagers to never forget who we are and to ensure the memory of each athlete and coach is enduring.

The next day, the athletic games and ArtsFest preparations began. The tournaments and Artsfest performances are extremely formative experiences in shaping their Jewish identities.

Shalom Austin enables Austin teenagers to have meaningful Jewish experiences in many ways. The Maccabi experience is one significant way that we fulfill our goal and mission of providing such experiences. Ensuring that everyone who wants to participate in this experience should be a priority.

Team Austin 14U Boys Basketball and their Coach Bobby Schwartz with their bronze medals. Credit: Aron Waisman.

Team Austin 14U Boys Basketball and their Coach Bobby Schwartz with their bronze medals. Credit: Aron Waisman.

ArtsFest Offers Teens Opportunity to Gain Confidence, Strengthen Connections

Serving as an ArtsFest visual arts chaperone gave Jewish Family Service therapist C. Lee the chance to sit in with ArtsFest’s different disciplines to see Austin teens in action.

ArtsFest offers disciplines in visual art, culinary arts, improv/acting, musical theater, social media, dance and rock band. Teens represented Austin in culinary arts, improv/acting and rock band.

It was incredible to see their confidence grow and the connections they already had from previous years deepen, while new friendships were created, Lee explained.

“Throughout the week I was also able to see our teens rise as leaders in each group - helping and encouraging others, creating joy and excitement, and setting an example for others as individuals and members of an ensemble. A teen from another delegation changed to the improv/acting group after the first day. When he was introduced to the improv/acting group, our teen immediately jumped up to welcome him and she introduced him to all of the others in the group,” Lee said.

At the end of the week, culinary arts participants presented there work at a gallery opening for visual arts, a large showcase gave the social media squad the opportunity to share videos of interviews they conducted, and those in the other disciplines performed as well. Lee said the show was incredible and the big finale was particularly exciting.

Throughout the week, ArtsFest teens started off each day at a morning meeting where they checked in, set intentions for the day, played team building games, and supported one another. They also worked on choreography for the final showcase. Each discipline had a chance to take a final bow and then they all did a choreographed dance to “Born this Way.”

Jake Newberg, Carlos Waisman and Ben Bazarian at one of the Maccabi parties. Photo courtesy of Aron Waisman.

Jake Newberg, Carlos Waisman and Ben Bazarian at one of the Maccabi parties. Photo courtesy of Aron Waisman.

“While some of the teens were dancers and comfortable with this, others were not. But all of them helped each other learn and practice, and they were all able to confidently have fun dancing. There was something really special about each group taking a bow and being cheered on by the other teens,” Lee said.

It was also cool to see some of the other teens that were there for the games come to the showcase to support their fellow Austin delegates, Lee explained.

“Earlier in the week when I asked one of our teens how he felt about the final dance he was not looking forward to it. After the show I asked him how he liked it and he excitedly told me, ‘It was so much fun!’ He really came out of his shell,” Lee said.

At the end of the week, Lee stepped in for the visual arts artist in residence, who had a family emergency and had to leave early, giving Lee the chance to sit in on the final daily production meeting. Lee noticed that instead of referring to the Austin rock band’s name, organizers referred to the band as “Ray’s band.”

“He particularly stood out among everyone in rock band and the ArtsFest as a leader. When I told him about it he had the biggest smile on his face. I was so proud of him,” Lee explained.

“Seeing all of the teens grow was a deeply rewarding experience and one I will cherish,” Lee said.

Maccabi USA U18 Juniors Girls' Soccer Team. Credit: Liza Lewis.

Maccabi USA U18 Juniors Girls' Soccer Team. Credit: Liza Lewis.

Maccabi USA U18 Juniors Girls’ Soccer Team Wins Gold at 14th Pan American Maccabi Games

By Maccabi USA staff

The Maccabi USA U18 Juniors Girls’ Soccer Team won a gold medal at the recent 14th Pan American Maccabi Games, which took place in Mexico City, Mexico, July 5-15, 2019. Maccabi USA brought a team of more than 400 athletes to join 2,500 Jewish athletes from 19 countries, participating in 24 different sports. 

The U18 Juniors Girls’ Soccer Team included Helena Lewis of Austin.

The soccer team went undefeated at 5-0, scoring 35 goals throughout the entire competition while allowing only three goals against. The team defeated Brazil in the semi-finals, 5-0, and defeated Mexico Invitado in the finals 7-2.

Led by Head Coach David Parks and Assistant Coach Julia Cohn, the team of 18 players was selected from a pool of applicants representing 12 different States. Six players have already committed to D1 or DIII college programs.

Helena Lewis played on the Maccabi USA U18 Juniors Girls' Soccer Team, which won gold at the 14th Pan American Maccabi Games, which took place in Mexico City, Mexico, in July. Credit: Liza Lewis.

Helena Lewis played on the Maccabi USA U18 Juniors Girls' Soccer Team, which won gold at the 14th Pan American Maccabi Games, which took place in Mexico City, Mexico, in July. Credit: Liza Lewis.

“The greatest challenge we faced with the Pan Am Games is having never played together as a team prior to two days before departure for Mexico,” explained Parks.

“This is, by nature, a team of All-Stars who are each used to being the focal point of their club and high school teams. They were asked to put individual needs and desires aside and buy into a system different than what they typically experience on the field in order to find success at the international level. This meant occasionally playing out of their primary position, perhaps dealing with less playing time in games than they were used to and coming together as a team in a very short amount of time. Obviously, they were quite successful and now have this amazing experience to look back on,” he said.

The Pan American Maccabi Games were hosted by the Confederacion Latinoamericana Maccabi and are conducted in cooperation with Maccabi World Union. They are held every four years, two years after the World Maccabiah is held. The Pan American Maccabi Games are a high-level athletic competition for Jewish athletes all over the world aimed at connecting Jews from the diaspora. ■

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