Gold rush

9 North Texans head to 19th Maccabiah

When the 19th Maccabiah Games commence in Israel on Thursday, July 18, Team USA will have 26 representatives from Texas, nine from the Dallas area. Since Maccabiah’s inception in 1932, American athletes have been a major delegation. However, this year America will send its largest contingent yet with 1,132 Jewish athletes and coaches. The games, ranging from basketball to chess, will continue through July 30. Not only has Maccabiah, dubbed the Jewish Olympics, become an elite sporting competition, but also it is an environment where Jews worldwide can convene to experience our homeland. The nine athletes from the DFW Metroplex are featured here. -Compiled by Rachel Goodman

Rebecca Brown

BrownAge: 26
Sport: Open Equestrian — Athlete
City: Dallas
Bio: Following in her mother’s footsteps, Rebecca has been riding since the age of 3. By age 7, she was competing in dressage competitions and by 10 she had completed a First Level dressage test at a recognized show in Dallas. She has been competing ever since and has also bought and sold horses.
Earning a BS in Finance from James Madison University – College of Business and George Mason University – School of Management, she is now an instructor at her mother’s horsemanship school. Through her own venture RB Riding, Brown trains horses, teaches riders and sells horses for clients. She is one of only 10 equestrians representing Team USA.

Becky Brown

Age: 60
Sport: Open Equestrian — Coach
City: Dallas
Bio: Becky Brown will be the dressage coach for USA’s Open Equestrian team, giving her the chance to coach her daughter, Rebecca.
In 1973, she traveled to England and studied at the Talland School of Equitation in Cirencester and earned her British Horse Society Instructor’s certification. Since graduating from Texas Tech University in 1976, she has been a major name in Dallas area dressage. She is past president of The Dallas Dressage Club and Therapeutic Riding of Texas. Currently, she is a local dressage judge and eventing coach. In 2012, she was awarded the USEA Cornerstone Award, honoring those instructors who have taught over 20 years and shown excellence in teaching and producing excellent riders nationally. Brown runs the Becky Brown School of Horsemanship in Dallas.
When speaking about the Games, Brown said, “I am honored to have been chosen to coach at the Maccabiah Games. I never would have been able to travel to Israel without this opportunity. I am thrilled to be able to experience and learn about my heritage and at the same time represent the USA at an international competition!”

Joel Cohen

CohenAge: 45
Sport: Masters 35+ Soccer — Athlete
City: Dallas
What made you want to play in the Maccabiah games?
“In 1985, I watched the finals of the men’s Maccabiah Games soccer between Israel and Holland. After that game, the leading scorer threw his boot into the stands. I caught it, and kept it for years until my mother threw it out. After that game, I told myself that I wanted to appear in the Games too.”
You were supposed to play in the 1989 games, what happened?
“About two weeks before the tournament, on a Friday afternoon in Ramat Chen when playing in a pickup game, I headed a ball that was traveling extremely fast. The powerful impact knocked me out, and I started hearing ringing in my right ear. I first went to Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv, but the doctors couldn’t figure out the problem. I then went to a Harvard trained doctor in Ramat Hasharon, who diagnosed it as a rupture of the cochlea. I lost 70 percent of the hearing in my right ear. He operated on me at Herzliya Hospital, but it didn’t improve the hearing loss. As a result of that operation, I wasn’t allowed to even walk in the Opening Ceremonies, given his fear that some athlete would, in a joyful mood, inadvertently hit my right ear, and the operation would be damaged.”
What does it mean to be playing in this Maccabiah?
“I’m excited, 28 years after I caught that boot, and 24 years after my freak header/hearing loss injury, to play in the Games.”

Alan Rosenthal

RosenthalAge: 18
Sport: Open Cycling — Athlete
City: Dallas
What are you most looking forward to during this experience?
“I am most looking forward to meeting other cyclists like me and not just from across the country, but from around the world really. It’s always exciting and fun to meet people who share the same passion as I do.”
How and when did you become involved with cycling?
“I’ve been racing my bike competitively for the past four years. My freshman biology teacher got me hooked on the sport and I’ve been racing my bike ever since.”
Who is coming to cheer you on during the Games?
“My family, at least part of my family, will be going to Israel to cheer me on: my parents, my brother and my grandmother will be there. But I don’t plan on seeing them much because I will be with the team most of the time.”
What physical and mental exercises have you been doing to prepare yourself?
“I’ve been riding as much as possible and participating in as many races as possible. I’ve been doing endurance rides and intervals and stuff like that to get ready for the Games.”

Eldad Block

BlockAge: 38
Sport: Masters 35+ Soccer — Athlete
City: Plano
How have you prepared yourself for these games?
“I have been playing my whole life. I play in three different leagues throughout the year. [I’ve been] playing soccer three times a week, weightlifting and endurance training four times a week.”
What are you most looking forward to during this experience?
“Playing against other powerhouses in the soccer world to see how we match up against them.”
Have you ever been to Israel before?
“[This is my] 42nd time … Israel feels like home to me.”
Is there anything else you would like to tell the readers of the TJP?
“Wish us luck!!!! GO USA!!!”

Avi Edwards

EdwardsAge: 35
Sport: Masters 35+ Soccer — Athlete
City: Richardson
What are you most looking forward to during this experience?
“Aside from the falafel on Ben Yehuda, I am looking forward to the overall experience of Jewish pride I know I am going to be feeling throughout the two weeks. It is beyond amazing that every four years, Jews from across the world successfully come together to compete representing their respective countries, but at the core of it, we are all Jews. I know that commonality will connect us even beyond the fact that we’re all athletes.”
What physical exercises have you been doing to prepare yourself for the Games?
“I have been following a six-week fitness training regimen provided by my coach as well as playing in pick-up games and scrimmages where possible. It’s important in a team sport to keep my personal skills sharp so I can contribute when we’re all together.”
How do you feel about going back to Israel?
“This is my fourth trip to Israel. My first was a two-month trip with Camp Ramah back in the summer of 1995. It was amazing to experience just about everything Israel had to offer. My next two trips were six and eight years ago, both 10-day trips and it was amazing to see not only how much had changed, but also several of the sights and locations that have been the same for hundreds, even thousands of years. My anticipation for this trip has me overflowing with pride and excitement, being for such a different purpose and as part of such a unique group. I know there are very few people who will have the honor of participating in a Maccabiah and it means the world to me to be one of those few.”

Ophir Bernstein

BernsteinAge: 20
Sport: Open Wrestling — Athlete
City: Allen
Bio: Wrestling seems to be in the Bernstein DNA. Ophir’s father, Evan, wrestled for Team USA in the 1981 Maccabiah Games and then for Israel during the 1988 Olympic Games after making aliyah. Then, Ophir’s older brother, Eden, wrestled for Team USA during the 2009 Maccabiah games, winning silver. Now Ophir is carrying on his family legacy.
In 2011, he won the Texas High School State Championship at the 171 lb. weight class and was also voted the Outstanding Wrestler of the State as a senior at Allen High School. He ended his final season with 44 wins and 0 loses, ranking him eighth in the nation.
A rising junior at Brown University, he qualified for the NCAA Wrestling Championships in both his first and second year. Last summer, he also wrestled for the Israel National Team at the European Championships. Currently, he is ranked 20th in the nation in Division I Wrestling.

Samuel Waranch

WaranchAge: 16
Sport: Juniors Chess — Athlete
City: Dallas
Bio: A rising junior at Greenhill School, Waranch has played in over 150 chess tournaments throughout the United States and has been nationally ranked in chess many times over the last eight years.
In 2010, he represented the United States in the Pan American Games in Argentina where he did very well.
In addition to chess, Waranch also plays soccer and participates in Lincoln Douglas debate at Greenhill School.
About the Maccabiah Games, he said, “I am honored to be able to represent the United States in such a way. Being a part of this group of Jewish athletes is such a great opportunity. I am really excited.”

David Holiner

HolinerAge: 22
Sport: Open Tennis — Athlete
City: Dallas
How long have you been training for tennis?
“I’ve been training for tennis since I was 6-years-old. I got serious once I was probably about 11 or 10 and I got to about sixth in the country in juniors and No. 1 in Texas. Then I came to the University of Texas to play on a tennis scholarship. And I just got to the finals of the NCAA tournament, which was pretty big for me, and so that made me an All-American which has always been my tennis goal. But probably my other goal in tennis, besides winning a National Championship, is to win a gold medal at the Maccabiah Games, so I’ve been training very hard.”
Is this your first time going to Israel?
“This is my third time going to Israel, I’ve been two other times. I went to Israel for the first time for the Maccabiah Games back in ’09, which was a great experience, and I went on Birthright last summer. So this is my third time going and I love going to Israel — it’s like a second home to me so I’m very excited.”
What made you decide to play in the Games?
“I heard about it when I was younger. I played the American ones and I won that one — the American Maccabi Games — when I was around 12. So, I didn’t realize that there was a bigger one and once I found that out I was hooked. I had to go do it, I was excited to do it and I went four years ago and did the Maccabiah Games [in Israel]. And I told myself that I would do it again that I had so much fun, and if I’m not crippled in four more years ill try to do it again.”
If you are interested in participating in the next Maccabiah: Maccabiah takes place every four years, the summer after the summer Olympics. Visit to find more information on specific sports and age groups. Team USA begins accepting applications for all positions around two years out. To make sure you are staying on top of Maccabiah’s recruiting schedule be sure to like them on Facebook — Maccabi USA/Sports for Israel — and follow them on Twitter @maccabiUSA.

Dallasite Joel Cohen heading to Israel for Maccabiah Games

Soccer player joining team after enduring some injuries

By Rachel Goodman

On Thursday, July 18, Joel Cohen of Dallas will embarked on a journey that has been 28 years in the making. On that day, the 19th Maccabiah Games, held in Israel every four years, will commence and Cohen will make his country proud by participating in the games after encountering some hardships over the years.
Cohen’s journey to this point began in 1985, when he was just a young spectator at the finals of the Maccabiah men’s soccer division, in which Israel defeated Holland.
“The leading scorer that game threw his boot after the game in the stands. I caught it, and kept it for years until my mother threw it out,” Cohen said. “After that game, I told myself that I wanted to appear in the Games too.”
Between classes at Washington University in St. Louis, Cohen managed to find time to train for the next games. While studying abroad at Tel Aviv University during his junior year, he managed to find his way into the next Maccabiah.
“Given the inability to try out for the U.S. team, but having played for TAU that year as the only American, I was nominated by the coach that year to play in the games,” Cohen said. “There was that ‘Rest of the World’ team that was created in light of the ban on South African players (ironically, I grew up there). So I was chosen to play on the team as the U.S. representative.”
What seemed like Cohen’s dream coming to fruition quickly turned tragic just two weeks before the games. While playing in a pickup game of soccer in Ramat Chen, Cohen headed a ball speeding at an extremely high velocity. Immediately following impact, he heard ringing in his right ear, which continued through the next day.
Cohen first visited the doctors at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv, but they could not determine what was wrong. He then went to a Harvard trained doctor in Ramat Hasharon, who diagnosed it as a ruptured cochlea.
“I lost 70 percent hearing in my right ear — the doctor operated on me at Herzliya Hospital, but it didn’t improve the hearing loss,” Cohen said. “As a result of that operation, I wasn’t allowed to even walk in the Opening Ceremonies, given his fear that some athlete would, in a joyful mood, inadvertently hit my right ear, and the operation would be damaged.”
While his chance to play in those games was crushed, Cohen did not give up hope. A few years ago, he noticed a Masters soccer division on the Maccabi USA website.
Although at 45 he would be one of the oldest attempting to play for the Masters 35+ team, Cohen decided to tryout. Despite having the skill, making the team did not come easy to him.
Making it through the first round of tryouts in New Jersey during September 2012, he was asked to attend the second tryout camp held in Phoenix during November. While there, Cohen once again was unable to evade injury.
“A teammate fouled me pretty harshly (would have been a Red card if in a real game), and I couldn’t walk that night, nor leave my hotel room,” Cohen said. “The next two days, I was hobbling, but given the strong desire to play after the 24/28 years [since first deciding to play and the ear injury], I played through so much pain while on one leg.”
Even while hurt, Cohen led the camp in assists that weekend with three. After 24 years, Cohen was once again an athlete on a Maccabiah team.
The struggle did not end there, though. While at another Maccabiah camp in New York City, Cohen was kicked in the back of the calf during a scrimmage.
“I’m still surviving,” Cohen said.
Next week, Cohen will finally take to the field at the 19th Maccabiah games. His journey to this point has been an arduous one, but one that has given him the will to succeed.
Even at 45, Cohen sees more Maccabiah games in his future. As a former TJP intern in 1990, he is surely making this publication proud.

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