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2015 EMG Daily Update- Final Update

Message from Tonja Magerman, General Chairman

In Closing my Maccabi Friends,

I 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 you! 

Tonja Magerman

Tonja Magerman.jpg

General Chair 14th European Maccabi Chair


Message from Jeff Hessel, Masters Golf

Just 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.

We 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.

We 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."

After 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 world Jewry.

Our 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.

Ben 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. 

While 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.

"True 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 Berlin.

A 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!

With utmost respect and deep appreciation, 

Jeff Hessel

Medal Count from European Maccabi Games Organizers

emg medals.jpg


We would love to see all of the great photos that everyone took while in Berlin.  Please email with any photos that you would like to share!

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