Youth go for the gold at Maccabi Games

Athletics: Sports competitions for Jewish teens foster community ties and lasting friendships.

Howard At Play

August 08, 2004|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The Andorsky family faced a tough but interesting choice this week.

The Ellicott City family has two boys, Dan and Nathan, heading to the Jewish Community Center Maccabi Games that start today in Columbus, Ohio. But the games also are taking place in Rockville this week, and daughter Lilly is taking part there. Parents Claudia and Richard Andorsky had little trouble choosing where to go.

"We are going with Lilly, because Lilly has schlepped all over the place to watch her brothers," Richard said. "We want to see her."

The JCC Maccabi Games could be described as an Olympics for Jewish kids 13 to 16 years old. They are held in three or four cities each summer - Baltimore was host for the games in 2002 - and attract athletes from all over the United States and some from abroad. Israeli athletes often show up, and the games are conducted at different spots to make it a regional event.

This year's games began last week in Austin, Texas. Rockville and Columbus play host to the other sets of games that run today through Friday. The Rockville games have an opening ceremony tonight at MCI Center in Washington with TV broadcaster Jim McKay as one of the hosts.

Baltimore has the largest traveling delegation in the games, sending 249 athletes - some from Howard County - to the three cities.

The popularity of the games has grown in Baltimore in recent years. Holding the games in Baltimore has helped officials to field more teams and interest more athletes.

Lilly Andorsky, 13, had little trouble becoming interested in the games. The eighth-grader at Baltimore's Beth Tfiloh School went to see her older brothers play a few times, including trips to Miami and Baltimore, and will make her debut playing point guard in basketball.

"I liked watching them play," Lilly said. "I'm kind of nervous now. I guess this is a chance that not everyone gets."

Dan Andorsky, 18, will be an assistant coach on a 13- to 14-year-old boys' basketball team competing in Columbus. He has played on several JCC Maccabi teams and was a captain of the Baltimore team in 2002. He graduated from Wilde Lake High School in June and will attend the University of Maryland.

Nathan, 16, a rising junior at Wilde Lake, will be making his third and final appearance in the games, playing basketball.

The children's parents said they love to see their kids involved in the games.

"We see them certainly being connected athletically to other Jewish kids." Richard Andorsky said. "It's nice for us that they still have that connection to the Jewish community and a Jewish organization."

Jessica Manzone has long had a JCC Maccabi connection. The Ellicott City resident played volleyball on a team for two years in the late 1990s and retains a friendship with longtime JCC Maccabi coach Lynn Baklor.

Manzone continued to play volleyball in an adult league with Baklor, who asked her to become an assistant this year for the JCC Maccabi team that is headed to Rockville. A former varsity field hockey player at Centennial High School and later at Salisbury University, Manzone is a kindergarten teacher at Glenwood Country School and happy to be associated with the JCC Maccabi Games again.

"Maccabi is 50 percent good competition and 50 percent friendships," Manzone said. "It's a good experience being with people of similar backgrounds."

Manzone played on Baltimore volleyball teams that won gold medals in St. Louis and Milwaukee and hopes to find more success as a coach.

Manzone said she loved meeting new people in different cities. JCC Maccabi athletes don't stay in hotels but with families. Thousands of volunteers, including those families, help the games each year.

"I still keep in contact with one of my host families from Milwaukee," Manzone said.

Daniel Lefkowitz, 13, is hoping to win medals and make friendships, as Manzone has. Daniel, a rising eighth-grader at Glenelg Country School, is playing on one of Baltimore's in-line hockey teams.

"I'm just looking forward to scoring some goals and having some fun," Daniel said. "I'm also looking forward to meeting some other people."

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