JWRP Sisters’ Kids Take on the Jewish Olympics in Israel
When Julie Haymann returned from her MOMentum Trip to Israel, she infused her home with a love of Israel. Her daughters hung Israeli flags in their bedrooms and her family spoke about the Jewish homeland often. So, when her 13-year-old daughter, Kaya, a competitive gymnast, learned that she would be competing in the Maccabiah Games, the Jewish Olympics, in Israel, Julie was thrilled.
“Her Jewish identity and gymnastics are her two greatest passions,” said Julie. “To be able to leave the gym — where she trains 36 hours a week, 51 weeks a year — and do gymnastics in Israel, with her coach’s blessing, is a dream come true for her.”
This summer, the Maccabiah will bring together 10,000 Jewish athletes from around the world to compete in sports that range from badminton to baseball and from rugby to rowing. Since 1932, the Maccabiah has taken place every four years in Israel, and in a week, many JWRP sisters and their families will join the festivities, too.
Jeanie Milbauer, a JWRP co-founder and a founding president of the JWRP board, attended the Pan American Games in Chile with her family to cheer on her sister playing field hockey, her daughter, Samantha, playing soccer, and her son, Bryan, playing basketball. This summer, she will root for Bryan’s basketball team in Israel.
“At the Opening Ceremony, it will be so moving to see 10,000 Jewish athletes of all ages celebrating our shared heritage,” said Jeanie. “We may not speak the same language, but we all share a connection that transcends everything else.”
Following tryouts and acceptances, many American teams met in the USA for a few days of bonding and training. Before the Maccabiah Games officially begin, the athletes will divide their days between training and touring Israel. Many are award-winning athletes back home, too.
JWRP Senior Partnership Manager Ariella Milobsky’s son, Caleb, will be playing on the same basketball team as Jeanie’s son, Bryan. As a high school basketball player, he has won many tournaments, and has always wanted to compete in the Maccabiah.
“My father played basketball in the Maccabiah back in 1993, and has said that it was an amazing, unforgettable experience,” said Caleb. “I’m excited to have the experience now, too.”
All three mothers will be in Israel to see their children compete. In fact, a contingent of about 45 people from Julie’s family will be attending, including her immediate family and extended family members who are flying from the USA, as well as about 20 Israeli family members.
“When I was my daughter’s age, Israel wasn’t even on my radar,” said Julie. “But the JWRP has had a dramatic impact on my family’s love and dedication to the country.”
For many athletes, the Maccabiah is an opportunity to play sports with other top athletes from around the world, some who go on to compete in the Olympics, too. Discovering Israel and exploring their Jewish identity are added bonuses.
“I’ve seen the Maccabiah jumpstart many Jewish athletes’ connection to their heritage. I’ve also seen people meet lifelong friends and their spouses,” said Jeanie. “I feel privileged and proud that my son will be able to compete in Israel, and that I’ll be able to cheer him on, alongside many of my JWRP sisters.”