This Month’s Inspiring Story
Games and Growth
The JCC Maccabi Games, an Olympic-style sporting competition for athletes age 12-16 years held each summer at different cities in North America, provides an opportunity for young athletes to grow in many different ways.
Brothers Noah Goozh and Eli Goozh were two of the 92 athletes who represented Team Greater Washington at the JCC Maccabi Games in August. Noah, a junior at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, traveled to Detroit, Michigan to play ice hockey. Eli, a freshman at St. Andrew’s, played basketball at the Games in Atlanta, Georgia. This was Noah’s first year competing in the games, and Eli’s second year has also played basketball in 2018 at the Games in Orange County, California.
Noah and Eli’s mother, Dana, says that the JCC Maccabi Games have been life-changing for her sons.
“I encourage any Jewish teen to take advantage of the opportunity. They enjoyed the competition, made lifelong friends, and connected to their Jewish faith. Noah asked if I would get him a necklace with a Star of David just days before he left for Detroit. He wears it proudly every day and remembers the amazing time he had.”
In this interview, Noah and Eli talk about their experiences at the Games, the impact it has had on their lives, and how their participation has contributed to their growth.
Why did you decide to participate in the JCC Maccabi Games?
ELI: I participated to grow my knowledge about Judaism and its culture. I also felt like it was a great opportunity to make new friends with the same interests as me. I even became friends with players from opposing teams. On top of these reasons, these games were a chance for me to play competitive basketball against people across the country.
NOAH: My friends, along with my brother, had a big role in influencing me to participate. They would come back from the Games and tell me how much fun it was and the impact it had on them and their lives.
Do any special people and/or experiences stand out in your mind?
ELI: The people who stand out in my mind are all the friends I made and my host family. My host family did absolutely everything they possibly could to make sure me, my friend, and the four other kids we stayed with were in the best condition possible. The experiences that stand out in my mind are all the amazing evening activities we did, especially the evening we had with our host family when they took us to the College Football Hall of Fame.
NOAH: The opening and closing ceremonies were probably the most memorable moments. My host family made me feel comfortable and welcome and I loved seeing them at the rink.
What was your favorite part of the Games?
ELI: My favorite part of the games was the basketball games themselves. Our team played great and it was extremely fun. I had a great coach and great teammates and we were able to win gold.
NOAH: I loved meeting new people and competing against other delegations from around the world.
Please talk about the friendships you have made through the JCC Maccabi Games.
ELI: I made multiple friends across about three different teams. First are the kids on my own team. I had lots of time to get to know them this summer, especially from practices. I think our team’s success had something to do with us getting along so well. Second are the kids who shared a home with me. It was a group of four kids who all played basketball, so that was something we all had in common. We were all supportive of each other. We would go to each other’s games every chance we got. Two of them were from Philadelphia, and we played against them. Last is almost the whole Cleveland basketball team. We saw them around a lot at the JCC and talked to them a lot. They were really funny, and we got to play against them.
NOAH: The bonds I made throughout the games are unforgettable.
What impact has your participation in the JCC Maccabi program had on your life?
NOAH: Maccabi certainly made me feel more connected to my Jewish faith. In addition, participating in JCC Cares [a program through which athletes have the opportunity to enhance their experience at the Games by participating in a community service project] was really eye opening and humbling. I never wanted the games to end. I hope to stay involved in the future through coaching, since I am too old to participate as an athlete.
What advice would you give to a teen who is thinking about participating in the JCC Maccabi Games?
ELI: Take advantage of the opportunity to learn about your Jewish culture because there is a lot to learn while you are at the Maccabi Games.
NOAH: I would tell the athlete to take full advantage of the games by meeting new people and stepping out of your comfort zone socially. I also recommend that any perspective athletes who are of age to compete take full advantage by starting to participate as early as they can.