Worldwide athletic competitions are typically held every four years. While the most well-known are the Olympic Games and the FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) World Cup, the World Maccabi Games, sometimes known as the “Maccabiah” or the “Jewish Olympics,” is the third-largest sporting event in the world, with more than 10,000 participating athletes.
The event is held every four years in Israel, and Jewish athletes from all over the world journey to compete in the games alongside Israeli athletes of all religions. The Maccabi USA (MUSA) organization hosts both youth and adult competitions; the 20th Maccabiah was held for adult competitors last summer. This year, the organization hosted the Maccabi Youth Games, open for athletes born in 2002, 2003 and 2004, and Great Neck will be represented in the Holy Land thanks to local 15-year-old athletes Samantha Bressler (soccer), Noa Fisher (basketball) and Victoria Varkonyi (soccer).
The competition was held in Israel from July 23 to Aug. 1. Bressler, Fisher and Varkonyi are among 35 participants chosen to play for Team USA. Other countries represented include Argentina, France, Great Britain, Canada, Holland, Hungary, Israel, Spain, Italy and South Africa. The six days of competition was to be followed by three days of travel around Jerusalem, so that the young athletes can explore their faith and heritage.
“I’ve been playing soccer since I was 5 years old,” said Bressler, as she was preparing for
the games. “[The competition is] going to be a really amazing experience. It’ll be awesome
to play the sport I love, and representing Great Neck [in Israel] is even better.”
Varkonyi has also been playing soccer for more than a decade.
“It’s so cool to come together with other Jewish kids who enjoy the same sports as I do,” said Varkonyi, of the Maccabiah.
While Bressler and Varkonyi are the first in their families to compete in the games, Fisher
is not. Her father, Andrew, participated in the 2017 Maccabi Games on the USA Cycling team, and this led to his daughter’s involvement in the Youth Games. According to the cyclist, his daughter also plays for an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball team, the Long Island Lightning.
MUSA takes a great deal of pride in this long-running tradition of competition. The first Maccabiah was held in 1932, and has been held every four years since 1953. Jewish athletes from around the world are given the opportunity to represent their countries and their faith as they compete. They are also invited to explore their historical and religious roots in Israel. One of the goals of the event is to bring Jews from all cultural backgrounds together, and remind them that they are all bound by their shared Jewish faith.
In the past, Great Neck has been proudly represented in various international athletic competitions, and it is wonderful that this tradition is being carried on by these three talented young athletes. We wish them and their fellow youth competitors the best of luck, and we will follow up on their success once they return home.