As I began at Maccabi USA last month, it was easy enough for me to envision how the competition at the Pan Am and European Maccabi Games would go on the field and what the parallel Jewish international experience would look like off. I imagined that while in uniform, I would see our athletes’ fierce competitive spirit, and when off the court, field, and course, a deep sense of Jewish camaraderie and connection would emerge. What I couldn’t have imagined was exactly how the two would intersect. 
This week, we witnessed an amazing example of exactly that in the Women’s Open Soccer tournament. Our women beat the competition handily, outscoring their opponents 33-0 in the four games they played. Despite their dominance, they played with kindness, generosity, respect, and grace, or what we might call in Hebrew a deep sense of hesed (kindness). And their opponents responded in quite an unexpected way at the medal ceremony on Monday. 
While it’s common for chants of “USA! USA!” to ring out from either the crowd and/or the medal stand at these culminating moments, the source of the chants yesterday was unique. I did a double take when I realized it was the women’s soccer team from Great Britain that had kicked off the first USA chant. And no sooner had their cheer ended then the Germany women’s soccer team picked up where they left off with their own “USA! USA!” chant. It turns out this sign of solidarity had its roots in the teams' match-ups with the US soccer team earlier in the Games. While the US outmatched Great Britain and Germany, our team played in a way that honored and elevated their opponents. In exhibiting sportsmanship beyond compare, the US team won the hearts of the other players and fans and solidified a connection that goes far beyond the pitch. The picture capturing all three teams locked arm in arm embodies the sportsmanship, camaraderie, and connection that is the essence of the Maccabi Movement. I am so proud that our athletes are extraordinary players and people. 

Yes, we won a lot of medals, and that is really gratifying and a testament to the talent and hard work of our players and coaches. But to be honest, win or lose, the stories of deep connection and transformative experiences represent what is most important to me as I join the Maccabi family.
There are so many sights and sounds that will continue to inspire me as we reflect on this summer’s games and prepare for 2021 in Israel:
  • The staging area for the opening ceremony as busload after busload of teams arrived from the 42 counties, creating a parking lot full of every color in the rainbow and then some.
  • As the ceremony began, the US delegation was the second to enter the stadium and literally had a front row seat to the action as countries big and small poured in. From Andorra to Ukraine and finally the host country Hungary, the energy and decibel levels reached a new high with the announcement of each new delegation.
  • The beautiful sounds emanating from the Dohany Synagogue for a pre-Shabbat gathering. Both the multilingual chatter as 2000+ athletes from those 42 countries began packing the pews as well as the wonderful melodies as the entire room joined together to sing Oseh Shalom (a song of peace to welcome Shabbat) and Hatikvah (the Israeli national anthem).

I hope that you will be in touch with me to share your family’s experience of the Games and what is sticking with you. I see myself becoming Maccabi USA’s Storyteller-in-Chief and want to collect your stories to share with our larger community, as well as to better understand any challenges you encountered or places where we could have done better. 
Finally, I want to thank our (exhausted) staff who have spent three weeks in two countries over the last month, between these Games and the Pan Am Maccabi Games. We’re grateful to each of them for taking time away from life at home to make this experience everything it could be. I also want to send unending gratitude to our village of volunteers: from coaches to medical staff, managers to team chairs and board members, this undertaking simply could not happen without the time and energy that they so lovingly give.
-Marshall Einhorn, Maccabi USA CEO