Brandon's Blog: The Power of the Maccabiah Games
Gabriella Serure

Aug 23, 2013

University of Michigan director of athletics Dave Brandon will regularly offer his view on a variety of topics related to U-M and intercollegiate sports. All his posts, along with links to related content, will be available on his page,, and he is also on Twitter at @DaveBrandonAD.

A foreign trip is an unforgettable adventure. It often spurs the imagination. It allows individuals the opportunity to explore the world and its many cultures. It is an educational experience.

Many of our U-M student-athletes and our varsity teams have the opportunity to compete on the international stage. Others like women’s track athlete Erin Busbee and men’s basketball player Jordan Morgan make a commitment as part of an educational endeavor or as a volunteer for a charitable organization.

And then there are those few who get to make an international trip to compete while exploring their own culture.

In July, the Maccabiah Games were held in Israel. Referred to as the Jewish Olympics, this event is held every four years and is open to all individuals of the Jewish faith, as well as Israeli athletes regardless of religion.

Former and current U-M student-athletes: Danielle Tauro (women's track & field), Gabriella Serure (water polo), Stu Douglass (men's basketball), Billy Jaffe, Zach Hyman, Spencer Hyman (ice hockey) and current director of hockey operations Josh Richelew made the trip to Israel.

For many of these individuals, it was a chance to have an identity with other athletes who enjoy sports and have the same religious beliefs -- something that is rare in Division I sports. They have an opportunity to see their religious homeland, understand the history of the country and the recognition of their religion from ancient times.

Just like the Olympics, those members representing each country must get a particular ‘rush’ as they walk out of the tunnel of the national soccer stadium in front of 40,000-plus fans, carrying the colors of the nation they represent as part of the Opening Ceremonies Parade of Nations.

They also had a chance to be part of more than just a team as they visited some of the most important religious sites in the world.

Jerusalem is considered a holy city by three major religions: Judaism, Islam and Christianity. In the ‘Old City,’ the walls define the Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Armenian quarters -- all within less than one-half square mile. In the midst of these quarters is the Wailing Wall, one of the most important and frequently visited religious sites in all of Judaism.

They had an opportunity to be on three borders. They went to the Golan Heights bordering Syria. They visited the Dead Sea that borders Jordan, and they were at the "Blue Line" -- the border between Lebanon and Israel demarcated by the United Nations in 2000.

They could hear the shelling in Syria, and they witnessed the Israeli Air Force on patrol. Those real life experiences brought to life history of the Israeli wars and border confrontations.

There is a wide world to explore, with endless opportunities to learn and contribute. The event is a triumph of not only competition but of community. This shared experience is special. This is the power of the Maccabiah Games.

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