Four of the five Pittsburgh area athletes at the just-concluded 19thMaccabiah Games in Israel are bringing home some fancy hardware, having medaled in their events.
Lily Feldman, a member of the U.S. soccer team won the gold medal; Daniella Rabin helped the U.S. junior gymnastics team earn the silver medal while she took bronze in the individual floor and vault exercises; Keaton Baum helped the U.S. junior ice hockey team take home a silver medal; and Destin Groff won the silver medal in swimming as part of the 400 medley relay team.
The Maccabiah Games, which wrapped up Tuesday, are sometimes referred to as the “Jewish Olympics.” They constitute the third largest sporting event in the world behind the Olympics and World Cup Soccer.
Feldman started every game at the center-defender position for the powerful soccer team, which defeated Australia 8-0, Germany 10-0, Argentina 10-1, Israel 1-0 and played to a draw against Canada, 1-1, to win the gold.
“The experience has been amazing,” she said via email. “It has been exhausting at times but I am thrilled that I was lucky enough to come along on this journey.”
Feldman, 22, began playing soccer in preschool. She graduated from the University of Vermont in the spring.
For Rabin, her medal-winning exercises overcame stiff competition from gymnasts from Israel, Slovenia, Finland and Canada.
“Gymnastics was a popular sport,” said Rabin’s grandparents, Bruce Rabin and Estelle Comay in an email. “It was held at the 2,000-seat Rav Sports Arena in Tel Aviv. Once the 2,000 seats were filled, they allowed standing room. That quickly filled up and many people had to be turned away.”
Rabin began tumbling at 2 years old and has competed at the local, state, national and now international levels.
She finished eighth grade at Community Day School this spring.
Baum finished the tournament with four goals and four assists for eight points, helping the junior hockey team to medal.
“The Maccabiah Games were like nothing else I have ever experienced,” he said via email. “To have a religious bond between teammates was stronger than any bond I’ve ever had before. Seeing the country for the first week was the most amazing experience of my life, and playing hockey only made it better.”
Baum has played ice hockey since he learned how to skate at age 3 or 4. He currently plays for Shady Side Academy where he will go into his senior year this fall.
Destin Groff, a member of the U.S. swimming team, which is made up of mostly Division I collegiate competitors, competed in one to two events every day.
Along with winning the silver in the 400 medley relay, made the finals in the backstroke, though it is not her favorite stroke and does not consider it one of her stronger events.
“They are all fast, smart and Jewish,” Groff said of her teammates.
She is going to Amherst College this fall where she will be part of the swim team.
Another Pittsburgh athlete also competed hard during the games.
Jesse Goleman was the goalie for the U.S. futsal team, which won its first game against Cuba, 3-1, but lost to Australia and Argentina to finish 1-2 in group play, failing to make the elimination round.
Futsal is soccer played on a smaller field and usually indoors.
“It was such a great experience,” Goleman said in an email, “and although we could not advance, I thought our team played very well.”
Goleman, 19, is going into his sophomore year at Centenary College in New Jersey where he plays on the men’s soccer team. The Squirrel Hill resident and Pittsburgh Allderdice High School graduate began playing futsal for a league in Monroeville when he was in ninth grade. He previously played in the Pan American Maccabi Games in Brazil in 2011.
The Maccabiah Games are held every four years in Israel. More than 9,000 Jewish athletes from almost 80 countries competed this year.
(Andrew Goldstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)