Message from Tonja Magerman, General Chairman
Closing my Maccabi Friends,
was asked to write the last entry for our EMG daily update. It may be a day
late because I talked to one of our Master athletes on the plane flying back to
JFK. We had no internet on the plane. Jeff Hessel says it so well in his
good-bye note to me, that I leave you with this wonderful note that sums up so
much more than I could have ever written. Thank you to all our athletes,
managers, coaches, doctors, athletic trainers, Maccabi staff, Gil travel and
Supporters. These games for Team USA could not have been possible without
Chair 14th European Maccabi Chair
Message from Jeff Hessel, Masters Golf
leaving Berlin; a place I was hesitant to visit, with my USA bag enclosing my
Grandfather's Talis and Tfillin. Just two generations before us, our
ancestors were fleeing this very place with those same religious articles
hidden away in their luggage if they hadn't already been confiscated or burned
during Crystalnacht. Most of us arrived in Berlin about ten days ago with
so much apprehension, so many questions, and a disbelief that we were willingly
visiting Germany, much less Berlin. We were coming to compete in sport but all
had a feeling that we were about to start a short journey about so much more
than our specific athletic passion. None of us knew where this journey would
take us athletically or spiritually but most had the feeling that there would
be something special when that final whistle blew.
all experienced some life changing, heart pulling, emotionally
challenging and even "goose bump" producing moments: the horror
and disbelief of Track 17 where a wreath was placed, Kaddish on the very field
of Nazi Party rallies in front of the 1936 Olympic Stadium where a regime who
tried to wipe out European Jewery once presided. There was a police presence
and heartfelt security never seen ON BEHALF OF JEWS IN BERLIN. We
were 8000 Jewish brethren strong, teary eyed and emotional, while singing
Hatikvah at Opening Ceremonies. This Opening Ceremony will be etched in
our collective minds forever. We witnessed the German Minister of Justice
telling us he is ASHAMED of what his ancestors did to The Jewish People; most
of us never hearing that reference to the victims of the Shoah prior to these
games. We were momentarily breathless when we heard the word
"murdered" as two different officials spoke and wrote of the Jewish
people's plight during the Shoah. Our hearts ached as we watched the
"somewhat" vindicated daughter of Marty Glickman lighting the
Maccabi Torch in her Father's original 1936 USA track jersey. The lobby at the
Estrell was the world's Jewish summer camp for all participants, of all ages,
these past ten days. We were all part of the 2300 strong, world record breaking
Shabbat dinner and Kiddush; with an aura of chaos, harmony, ruach, sprituality
and an overwhelming confidence in our next generation of Jewish leadership.
Finally, more chaos in the lobby on the morning of departure, crowded
with fulfilled exhausted Jewish Athletes, some with tears of separation and
goodbyes, yet others with a glow of excitement about their accomplishments,
their new friends and the school year ahead.
competed hard; we gave it our all and "left it all out there."
We displayed a level of Sportsmanship rarely lived up to at this level of
international competition. There was an unprecedented camaraderie amongst
competing teams, foreign to all Maccabi "newbies" but expected by all
Maccabi veterans. We wanted to win for ourselves and our country.
However, just under the surface and often "on our sleeves" we
rooted for our opponent and wanted all to play well and "have a good
game." There was an incredible mixture of emotions yearning for
victory but at the same time, wanting all Jewish Athletes to play well and
succeed. The hugs amongst competitors were endless and the "high
fives" and hand shakes were from the heart. This may be just another
way we were all subconsciously expressing "Am Yisrael Chai."
ten days in Berlin, I leave with such different emotions, a juxtaposition of
thoughts and perceptions towards Berlin and Berliners', which are 180 degrees
from where they started just ten days ago. I am now a fan of Berlin and
Berliners'. Berlin is a world-class city with world class people, which I
look forward to bringing my family back to. Berlin welcomed all Maccabi
participants with open arms, with an enthusiasm and thirst to show the world
that this generation of Berliners' deserve a clean slate, a fresh start and an
open mind from all of us towards all of them. This generation of young
Berliners' certainly cannot be burdened with the sins of their ancestry.
We all saw Berlin at it's best! Berlin rolled out "the red
carpet" in every true sense of the word. Berlin, in so many ways,
told us and showed us that these 2015 Maccabi Games were of the utmost
importance to Germany and the German people as well as world Jewry. I personally
had a bellman, golf course manager and police officer tell me that these
Maccabi Games were as important to them as they were to us…WOW! I am sure
many of us have the same stories to share about an interaction with a Berliner
during these 2015 Maccabi Games. Berlin really cared and it showed!
Berlin should be proud of themselves; they deserve a "SHOUT OUT" from
golf team had a special core. Our team was led by "the boys"
who took individual Gold and Silver while the Master's team also brought Sliver
home. The friendships from Florida to Philly to California to New Jersey
and New York should last a lifetime. The friendships formed with our German
hosts will certainly last a lifetime for the USA Golf Team. I am so very
grateful for the fun, support, encouragement and friendship of my teammates.
Feld, our Philadelphia born Maccabi Gold Medal Open Golfer who set a new course
record at the Stopleheid Golf Club of Berlin said it best on two different occasions.
visiting the Jewish Museum, Ben texted me that his visit to the museum was
really gluing together how special it is to be doing what we are doing as part
of EMC 2015 in Berlin. On another occasion, after I congratulated Ben on
his phenomenal golf accomplishment, Ben said thank you but "I am just
happy that on one of those very rare days in golf, I could represent our
country and Jewish Athletes well." For many of us, Ben's humility and
emotional grasp encapsulated the entire trip in two spontaneous heartfelt
sentences. Brett Brenner, our Silver Medalist, constantly held onto the
thought "I get it; The games are so much bigger than golf." Our
two "golf kids" are special "menches" who mixed fun, sport,
emotion and intellect about as beautifully as any of us could hope for. I
had much "nachus" from two young men I met just over week ago.
That", as our kids would say, is a sentiment so "on point" about
these Maccabi Games being so much larger than any individual or team athletic
accomplishment. EMC 2015 impacted a people, a country and world history!
We made a statement to the world with more than a dozen world front page
newspapers expressing the sentiment of Jewish Athletes, in a triumph, return to
deep appreciation goes out to those Maccabi USA and Maccabi Germany leaders who
spent years organizing these games. Your efforts were apparent, your hearts
were pure, your vision was accomplished and you can cherish the fact that you
have impacted over 2000 Jewish athletes, the Jewish communities of 36 countries, The city of Berlin as well as the worldwide Jewish community. Kol Ha Kavod and Todah Robah!
utmost respect and deep appreciation,