February 22, 2020

American athletes converge on Jerusalem for Maccabiah Games

More than 1,100 Jewish athletes were selected to represent the United States at the 20th World Maccabiah Games, known as the Jewish Olympics, that opened today at Jerusalem’s Teddy Stadium and continue through July 18.

The American athletes are among 10,000 from 80 countries participating. The quadrennial games feature 47 events, including basketball, fencing, archery and wheelchair tennis.

The Maccabiah Games have connected Jewish communities from around the world since 1932, with athletes competing in four divisions: junior, open, masters and paralympics. In the past, Arab Israelis have also participated in the games.

Among the athletes is Emily Surloff, a Los Angeles native who plays basketball for Columbia University.

“I’m extremely excited to represent the U.S.A. at the Maccabiah Games,” she said in a statement. “I participated in tryouts over the summer and found out I had made the team right before I came back to school. It’s an incredible opportunity for me to compete internationally and be a part of such an incredible experience with my heritage.”

Emily Surloff. Photo from Columbia Athletics

Head coach Sherry Levin of Worcester Academy in Massachusetts and assistant coach Jenna Cosgrove of Fordham are leading the 12-member women’s open team.

The Maccabiah Games, which take place every four years, the year after the summer Olympics, have become a way for Jews around the globe to show solidarity with Israel. Since its launch, more than 62,000 athletes have competed in the games.

Rabbi Daniel Greyber of Beth El Synagogue in Durham, N.C., captained the U.S. men’s swimming team in 1993 and is now serving as the American delegation’s spiritual leader for the second consecutive quadrennial.

“People are in an environment they excel in and are excited to be in,” he said. “It’s a confluence of factors that are unique and beautiful.”

JTA contributed to this story.