2013 SoCal Maccabiah medalists

About 150 Southern California athletes competed in the Maccabiah Games in Israel last month. The games kicked off with the opening ceremonies on July 18 and ran through July 30, offering participants from all over the world opportunities to connect to Judaism and Israel through sportsmanship.

Local athletes who won medals — totaling 51 gold, 29 silver and 24 bronze — are listed below:


Leo Kaplan, of Santa Monica, boys’ juniors baseball, gold
Ian McKinnon, of Burbank, boys’ juniors baseball, gold
Samuel McKinnon, of Burbank, boys’ juniors baseball, gold
Jason Schoen, of Los Angeles, boys’ juniors baseball, gold


Sorelle Cohen, of Beverly Hills, girls’ juniors basketball, gold
Joseph Fallas, of Beverly Hills, men’s youth basketball, gold
Spencer Freedman, of Pacific Palisades, boys’ juniors basketball, silver
Joseph Leavitt, of Santa Monica, men’s masters basketball, gold
Sean Mann, of Tarzana, men’s masters basketball, gold
Mark Small, of Encino, men’s masters basketball, gold


Daniel Ross, of Beverly Hills, open cycling, silver


Charles Horowitz, of Los Angeles, juniors fencing, two gold, silver
Jennifer Horowitz, of Los Angeles, open fencing, silver


Nathan Rice, of Los Angeles, open golf, silver


Jacob Feldman, of Los Angeles, boys’ juniors gymnastics, silver


Chad Goldberg, of Agoura Hills, open ice hockey, silver
Todd Lewis, of Manhattan Beach, masters ice hockey, gold


Denise Winner, of Manhattan Beach, masters half marathon, gold


Aaron Davis, of Venice, men’s open rugby, bronze
Alan Roniss, of Long Beach, men’s open rugby, gold, bronze
Ross Silverman, of Santa Barbara, men’s open rugby, bronze
Dallen Stanford, of Santa Monica, men’s open rugby, gold, bronze


Alexander Arsht, of Oak Park, men’s open soccer, gold
Ashley Aviram, of Beverly Hills, girls’ juniors soccer, gold
David Bannick, of Beverly Hills, men’s masters soccer (age 45 and over), bronze
Gary Bernstein, of Sherman Oaks, men’s masters soccer (age 45 and over), bronze
Chester Castellaw, of Hidden Hills, men’s youth soccer, silver
Gina Eide, of Chatsworth, girls’ juniors soccer, gold
Jacob Gooden, of Malibu, men’s youth soccer, silver
Jonah Gooden, of Malibu, men’s youth soccer, silver
Justin Greenberg, of Los Angeles, men’s masters soccer (over age 45), bronze
Spencer Held, of Agoura Hills, men’s youth soccer, silver
Marc Lebowitz, of Los Angeles, men’s masters soccer (over age 45), bronze
David Kohen, of Beverly Hills, men’s open soccer, gold
Kovi Konowiecki, of Long Beach, men’s open soccer, gold
Anna Manevich, of Encino, girls juniors soccer, gold
Charles Paris, of Venice, men’s open soccer, gold
Sean Pleskow, of Culver City, men’s youth soccer, silver
Willliam Pleskow, of Culver City, men’s open soccer, gold
Alex Simon, of Agoura Hills, men’s youth soccer, silver


Corey Angel, of Los Angeles, men’s masters softball, silver
Emily Bliss, of Northridge, women’s open softball, gold
Mitchel Brim, of Encino, men’s open softball, gold
Daniel Cosgrove, of Los Angeles, men’s masters softball, silver
Jeffrey Eisfelder, of Los Angeles, men’s masters softball, silver
Matthew Glotzer, of Encino, men’s masters softball, silver
Jason Gluckman, of Van Nuys, men’s open softball, gold
Madeline Kaplan, of Santa Monica, women’s open softball, gold
Michael Marble, of North Hollywood, men’s open softball, gold
Nathan Schoenbrun, of Calabasas, men’s open softball, gold
Kenneth Schwartz, of Manhattan Beach, men’s masters softball, silver
David Shpiro, of Northridge, men’s open softball, gold
Lawrence Silfen, of Marina del Rey, men’s masters softball, silver
Spencer Silverstein, of Calabasas, men’s open softball, gold
Martin Weiner, of Sherman Oaks, men’s open softball, gold
Daniel Winters, of Burbank, men’s open softball (coach), gold
Danielle Yudin, of Los Angeles, women’s open softball, gold


Hayley Hacker, of Pacific Palisades, open swimming, silver
Helene Hirsch, of North Hills, masters swimming, two gold, two silver, two bronze
Andrea Murez, of Venice, open swimming, five gold, two silver
Eyal Zuker, of Van Nuys, masters swimming, bronze


Oliver Friedman, of Los Angeles, juniors table tennis, bronze


Joshua Albert, of Manhattan Beach, open tennis, bronze
Gary Berner, of Oak Park, masters tennis, bronze
Hally Cohen, of Santa Monica, masters tennis, two bronze
Steven Davis, of Beverly Hills, masters tennis, bronze
Sivan Krems, of Thousand Oaks, juniors tennis, three bronze
Jeffrey Krieger, of Los Angeles, masters tennis, bronze
Amira Massi, of Los Angeles, open tennis, bronze
Dana Smith, of Los Angeles, masters tennis, two bronze
Scott Zimmerman, of Woodland Hills, masters tennis, bronze


Maya Aviezer, of Agoura Hills, open track and field, silver
Jessica Goodkin, of Los Angeles, open track and field, silver
Adam Markun, of Topanga, juniors track and field, bronze


Heather Shenkman, of Sherman Oaks, masters triathlon, bronze


Michelle Adams, of Beverly Hills, girls’ juniors volleyball, silver
Avia Cohen, of Beverly Hills, girls’ juniors volleyball, silver
Liat Hackman, of Los Angeles, girls’ juniors volleyball, silver


Derek Borisoff, of La Canada, open water polo (coach), gold
Devon Borisoff, of La Canada, open water polo, gold
Spencer Borisoff, of La Canada, open water polo, gold
Scott Churchman, of Los Angeles, open water polo, gold
Connor Levoff, of Santa Barbara, open water polo (coach), gold
William Klein, of Pasadena, open water polo, gold
Hannah Koper, of Santa Barbara, women’s open water polo, gold
James McNamara, of Encino, open water polo, gold
Natasha Schulman, of Los Angeles, open water polo, gold
Jeffrey Schwimer, of Beverly Hills, open water polo, gold

Israel comes to Beijing with its largest team, high hopes

BEIJING (JTA)—The largest contingent in Israeli Olympic history is eyeing its biggest medal haul as the Olympics get under way here.

Two of the five medal winners in the country’s Olympic history are among the 43 athletes—nearly half females—competing in the 2008 Games here. Plus there are hopes for several others.

Michael Kolganov, who won a bronze medal in kayaking at the 2000 Games in Sydney, was designated the flag-bearer for the opening ceremony Friday evening.

Israeli President Shimon Peres, who composed a poem about the Olympics, joined Kolganov and others from the Israeli delegation in Beijing.

Arik Ze’evi is back after taking the bronze in judo at the 2004 Games in Athens. With third-place finishes in the 2007 and 2008 European Championships, expectations for him are high.

Gil Fridman, who won the gold in men’s windsurfing in Athens, is not on this year’s squad.

But the 470 men’s sailing duo of Udi Gal and Gidi Kliger is coming off three straight bronze medals in the World Championships and a bronze in the European Championship.

Israel, which has never won more than two medals in an Olympics, is also looking for hardware from its men’s doubles tennis team of Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich. Ranked No. 5 in the world, Ram and Erlich captured their first Grand Slam title at the Australia Open in January, and reached the quarterfinals last month at Wimbledon.

While the expectations are high, most of the athletes are making their Olympic debuts and are relatively young.

“Many will continue on to the next Games,” predicted Ephraim Zinger, the Israel Olympic Committee secretary-general and mission chief.

Zinger told JTA that Kolganov was chosen as the flag bearer for his “personality.” A native of the former Soviet Union, Kolganov made aliyah as a teenager, eventually moving from Haifa to a Jordan Valley kibbutz. He served fulfilled his military obligation by serving in the army’s program for sporting excellence.

“He is a kind of role model, as someone who made aliyah when he was young and became a successful part of Israeli society,” Zinger told JTA.

Kolganov won the bronze in the K1 500 meters in Sydney and finished fourth in the 1000-meter race, falling just short of becoming the only Israeli to earn two medals in a single Olympics.

Not all the Israeli athletes will be on hand for the opening ceremony. The Israel Olympic Committee is flying in the competitors according to the date of their events and a formula for calculating the amount of time needed to acclimate to a new time zone.

Zinger says the Israelis do not have any extra security accommodations in China. Eleven Israelis were murdered by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Games in Munich.

“We live in the Olympic Village like all the other athletes, and we rely on the experience and expertise of the local authorities to do their best so we can compete peacefully and go back safely,” said Zinger, who noted that the Israel Olympic Committee has invested some $20 million over the past four years in preparation for the Beijing Olympics.

“The Olympic Security Department made an assessment and drew up a list of countries with the most sensitive security issues, and I can tell you we aren’t the only ones, and we aren’t at the top of the list either.”

High Marks for Jewish Swimmers


“Watermarks” is a life-affirming documentary that celebrates the constancy of courage and grace, from youth to old age.

Its setting is the waltz-loving Austria of the 1920s and ’30s, where the lithe young swimmers of the fabled Hakoah (“the strength”) Vienna sports club are beating their “Aryan” rival clubs year after year.

Freestyler Judith Deutsch alone breaks 12 national records in 1935 and is the toast of the town, until she refuses to compete for Austria at Hitler’s 1936 Olympic Games. As punishment, she is barred from competition for life and all her marks are erased from the official record books.

After the Reich’s takeover of Austria in 1938, the swimmers scatter to Palestine, the United States and England, marry and establish professional careers.

Some 65 years later, Israeli director Yaron Zilberman decided to track down eight of the swimmers, now in their 80s, in their adopted countries.

He persuaded them to return to Vienna for a reunion and one final lap, in custom-fitted swim suits, in the swimming pool of their glory days. One is Annie Lampl of Los Angeles, who didn’t let her blindness keep her away.

The reunion has its bittersweet remembrances, but few moviegoers are ever likely to encounter as feisty, feminine and fun-loving a bunch of octogenarians.

In 1995, the Austrian swimming federation invited Deutsch to travel from Israel to Vienna to have her medals and records restored in an official ceremony.

Deutsch declined, so the Austrian delegation traveled to Israel to do the honors.

“Watermarks” opens April 1 at Laemmle’s Music Hall in Beverly Hills (310) 274-6869, and on April 8 at the Fallbrook 7 theaters (818) 340-8710 in West Hills.


Olympic Veterans Return to Compete

Joe Jacobi’s pain as he prepares for the Olympics is more emotional than physical.

The canoeist/kayaker, 34, told JTA by e-mail that as he prepares for the Olympics in Athens, he misses his 3-year-old daughter, Seu Jane — named for the Spanish village that hosted some rowing competitions in the 1992 Summer Games — who is at home with his wife in Tennessee.

The pursuit of an Olympic medal usually conjures up a youthful single-mindedness, but like Jacobi, many of the 15 Jewish athletes competing for the U.S. team at the Athens Games are veteran athletes who competed in previous Olympics.

Jacobi, nicknamed the "paddling papa," won gold at the Olympics in 1992, the same year he was named USA Canoe/Kayak male athlete of the year.

Another veteran, swimmer Lenny Krayzelburg, a triple gold medal winner at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, will also compete in Athens, where the Games will get underway on Aug. 13.

Krayzelburg, a Jewish immigrant from Odessa — in what is now Ukraine — also has been a Jewish role model of sorts, once telling reporters that, "Being Jewish is part of me, it’s part of my culture."

He got his first American swimming experience, and his first job, at a JCC in Los Angeles shortly after his family arrived here in 1988 from the Soviet Union. After setting world records in the 100-meter and 200-meter backstroke at the 2000 Olympics, he participated in the Maccabiah in Israel.

Nearly 29, an age considered ancient in a sport mostly dominated by teenagers and those in their early 20s, Krayzelburg made headlines in mid-July when he qualified for the American team by finishing the 100-meter backstroke in 54.06 seconds, behind world champion Aaron Perisol.

His teammate, 28-year-old Jason Lezak of Irvine, another Jewish swimmer, won the 100-meter freestyle after setting a new American record of 48.17 seconds in the semifinals.

"Based on what you hear in the general public, you’d think there wasn’t much representation, but the list we have is very impressive," said Jed Margolis, executive director of Maccabi USA/Sports for Israel. In certain sports, he added, Jews "are at the top of the world."

Take, for example, Sada and Emily Jacobson. This dynamic duo of Jewish sisters from Atlanta may be Olympic neophytes, but they will enter the arena with high expectations.

Sada Jacobson, 21, is the top-ranked woman fencer in the world and in the U.S. and has said in press interviews that making the Olympic squad is honor enough.

Her teammates likely are honored to be competing alongside her, though: Not only is she the first American woman and second American fencer to reach the top of the world rankings, she is also a four-time world championship team member and a two-time NCAA saber champion.

Her younger sister, Emily, 17, is just a few lunges behind and the pair’s domination of women’s fencing has been compared to that of tennis’ well-known sisters, Venus and Serena Williams.

Emily, one of two athletes to receive a 2002 Jules D. Major Award to Jewish High School Athletes of the Year, was ranked second in U.S. saber fencing in 2003 and was a 2003 Pan American Games bronze medalist.

The Games in Athens will also be the first for 28-year-old fencer Dan Kellner. This six-time world championship team member from central New Jersey finished second in the foil competition at the national championships in 1997, 1998 and 2000.

But in 2000, Kellner did not make the Olympic squad. After a year hiatus, he came back and won a gold medal at the 2003 Pan American games, and his first national championship in 2004. For Kellner, making the Olympic team reflects the eagerness of a younger generation that is following closely in the footsteps of those before them.

"My friends who have done it before say it’s an experience that will change your life," he said in an interview with the New Jersey Jewish News. "[At the opening ceremonies], I plan to heed their advice and walk slowly — you only get once around the track," he said.

In other sports, though, veteran Jewish athletes will be representing the United States.

In track and field, Deena Drossin Kastor, who competed in Sydney and still runs at home in Central California, qualified in the marathon; equestrian — and West Palm Beach, Fla., horse trainer — Margie Engle, who was a member of the 2000 U.S. Olympic team, and the winner of five major equestrian competitions in 2001, will also compete.

Rami Zur, a newcomer to the American team who rowed in the canoe/kayak competition for Israel in 2000, will compete this year for the United States. His dual citizenship — he was born in Berkeley, and currently lives outside San Diego — allowed him to qualify for both countries’ teams.

In the non-Jewish world, Olympic medals are a pinnacle for sports achievement.

But Maccabi USA’s Margolis good-naturedly called the international competition a stepping stone for the Maccabiah Games, which will take place in July 2005.

"The Olympics are our stepping stone," he said. "You can win gold medals, but being part of the Jewish people is very special also."

Journal Contributing Editor Tom Tugend contributed to this report.