2017-08-02 / Home

South Jersey athletes return with medals and more from Maccabiah


Ben Feld (left) and Ben Smith were both on the USA junior golf team that received a silver medal. Ben Feld (left) and Ben Smith were both on the USA junior golf team that received a silver medal. Although Israel dominated the medal count at the 20th Maccabiah Games played on its home turf, local participants returned from the Holy Land feeling elated from the event that is about so much more than a sports competition.

“It was really amazing to be part of something so big and it really gave me a sense of pride to represent the South Jersey community and the United States in the games,” said Ben Smith, a Voorhees native who played on the USA junior golf team that tied with Israel but was deemed to be in second place on an unexplained technicality.

“For us, it was disappointing to come in second when we really tied for first, but that wasn’t the only reason we were there,” said Smith, who will be playing in the Katz JCC Pro- Am on August 7. “The competition was awesome. Our team was great and I was able to build a lot of relationships and friends with people all over the world.”

The third largest sports competition worldwide behind the Olympics and the FIFA Soccer World Cup, the games took place July 4-18 at various locations in Israel. It featured athletes from 80 countries, including Team USA’s 1,200-person delegation, in 43 different sporting events.

Israel earned 173 golds and a total of 470 medals to Team USA’s 50 gold and 164 medals overall. Canada came in a faraway third place. Among local athletes, Voorhees resident Jack Stern was on the junior basketball team that earned gold. His twin sister Charlotte was on the girl’s team that received a silver medal.

Cherry Hill resident Sara Messinger was on the women’s open soccer team that placed in second in its competition.

Besides the junior golf team’s questionable silver place, the three other golf teams won gold, said Bruce Apple, co-chair of Team USA golf. For him, the opening ceremonies in Jerusalem were the highlight.

“It was spectacular,” he said. “It’s the build up and then walking in to the ceremony and the performers,” said Apple, owner and president of Apple Physical Therapy. “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke. The Israeli president spoke. The 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem was really highlighted.”

Smith too was wowed by the pomp and circumstance. For him, the real takeaway was the friendships he formed.

“The golf community is a little different than most sports,” he explained. “After you compete against each other, you all hang out with each other at the end. I made great friends with Jewish people all over the world who will look me up when they come to the United States and we will be communicating for years to come, to the point that we all decided four years from now we want to go back to do it again.” 

Return to top