Years from now, some 12- to 16-year-old teenagers will look back and fondly remember the JCC Maccabi games over the last two weeks in Atlanta and Detroit as their greatest athletic moment, while others may think of it as their ultimate Jewish experience.
In Detroit, more than 3,000 people welcomed athletes. A delegation from the Mandel Jewish Community Center in Beachwood joined teams from Toronto, Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, New York and Washington, D.C. The opening ceremony took place in Little Caesars Arena, the home of the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Pistons.
The city of Detroit did a fantastic job with the event and the athletes were housed by host families. For the first time, many of them learned of the 1972 Olympics in Germany, when David Berger – the weightlifter from Shaker Heights – and 10 others, including athletes and coaches from the Israeli Olympic team held hostage by Arab terrorists and eventually killed in a shootout at the Munich airport.
Andy Baskin, of “Baskin & Phelps” on 92.3 FM The Fan, was a member of the Cleveland Heights High School hockey team from 1983 to 1986. In 1986, the team went 30-0 in the regular season before losing in overtime to Lakewood's St. Edward High School in the state final at Bowling Green, 6-5.
He and Michael Berg of the Shaker Heights Recreation Department coached 15 Cleveland-area teens from six schools at the Maccabi games.
Orange High School was represented by Dillon Fellinger, Marissa Goldschmidt, Jason Kornbluth, Danny Moore and Max Sigel. Gilmour Academy had three players, Brynn Baskin, Brennan Friedman and Zach Mangel. Shaker Heights High School also contributed three players on the team, Jack Camp, Noam Greenberg and Emmett Luzar. University School had Sam Heller and Jaren Leiken. Kenston High School’s Max Ritt and Cleveland Heights High School’s Eli Weisblat rounded out the Cleveland team.
Andy Baskin said he felt some of the other teams had players who had played together for quite some time, but he was proud of his team’s effort. He said they had a chance to win some of the close games. They played their games in the Novi Ice Arena in the Detroit suburb of Novi and had the opportunities to play teams from Detroit and Toronto, both of which had enough players to field two teams. Cleveland was down 2-0 to Toronto, but staged a comeback to tie the game. The team just fell short of making the bronze medal game, losing in overtime to Philadelphia, 6-5, in a thriller.
All in all, the Cleveland team played seven games in five days, combining a great week of competition, friendship and a great Jewish experience. It doesn’t get better than that.