2017-07-05 / Home

Local residents in Israel as 20th Maccabiah kicks off

By JAYNE JACOVA FELD Voice staff


Rick Ehrlich, who is chair of Team USA swimming, is pictured with his daughter Marlee at the 2013 Maccabiah games. Rick Ehrlich, who is chair of Team USA swimming, is pictured with his daughter Marlee at the 2013 Maccabiah games. Bruce Apple’s first trip to Israel for the Maccabiah games was in 1985. As a young athletic trainer for Team USA, he helped athletes stay in top form by day while taking part in cultural experiences and bonding events after hours, leading to lifelong friendships.

So taken by the experience, Apple reprised the role in 2013 and is back again this week.

Put simply, Maccabiah never gets old. The physical therapist is beyond excited for the opening ceremonies on Thursday July 6 at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem. All the pomp and circumstance feels more personal when the anthem is the Hatikvah and all the singing, dancing, fireworks and speeches are tailored for the massive Jewish sporting event celebrating Jewish pride that only takes place every four years, he said.

“When you’re marching into the stadium, the pleasure you get is indescribable,” said Apple, who is co-chair of Team USA golf. “There’s 40,000 people cheering you on; 7,000 Jewish athletes from around the world taking part and you’re marching with Team USA, nearly 1,200 athletes competing in all different sports. A lot of pride goes into that.”

Bruce Apple is seated between two local golfers on Team USA. They are Ben Smith, on left and Ben Feld of Plymouth Meeting. Bruce Apple is seated between two local golfers on Team USA. They are Ben Smith, on left and Ben Feld of Plymouth Meeting.

The 20th Maccabiah Games takes place July 4-18. Coinciding with the 50th anniversary of Jerusalem’s reunification, Jerusalem is the host city.

Among the 1,200, several of the athletes and a handful of support staff personnel hail from South Jersey. Among them, siblings Charlotte and Jack Stern, students at Moorestown Friends School from Voorhees, are competing in basketball. Ben Smith, a golfer who grew up playing at the Woodcrest Country Club and is ranked as the top amateur Jewish player, is representing Team USA. Cherry Hill resident Sara Messinger, who competed in 2015’s Maccabi games in Berlin, Germany will be competing on the open women’s soccer team, and Washington Township’s Sarah Buchner is on the women’s open gymnastics team.

Besides Apple, support staff members from the region include: Cherry Hill resident Rick Ehrlich, chairing the swimming team; pediatrician Marc Backal on the medical staff; trainer David Caplin from Mount Laurel; Dr. Merrick Wetzler, an orthopedist from Cherry Hill on the medical staff; Arthur Kratchman, accommodations manager from Cherry Hill; and Carly Goldstein, also an accommodations manager from Voorhees.

For Ehrlich, whose first Maccabiah experience was as a swimmer in 1985, his fifth time is about giving back.

Ehrlich’s memories from 28 years ago are still crystal clear, from first meeting his teammates in Newark, to training at Rutgers University and departing as a team from Kennedy Airport together to the monumental opening ceremonies. Winning the gold in the 400-meter medley as well as a silver in the 100-meter butterfly were the icing on the cake.

He then had the opportunity to return in 2005, 2009 and 2013 as a chair of the swim team and this year again as the overall chair of the team. The last two games were all the more significant for the ability to share them with his daughter Marlee, an accomplished swimmer whose medal count surpassed her father’s during the games.

“Walking in the stadium during opening ceremonies with her, it’s something I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life.” 

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