Maccabi Games give Tucson teen athletes opportunity for medals, service

Kendall Karon cleans the headstone of a war veteran as part of the Maccabi Games Day of Caring and Sharing.

The Tucson Maccabi Delegation of 14 teen athletes attended the Maccabi Games in Omaha, Neb., Aug. 1-6, making this the 15th year the Tucson Jewish Community Center has fielded a team. The games attract thousands of Jewish youth each year from across the United States, Mexico, Canada, Israel and this year, Hungary.

(L-R) Dakota Kordsiemon, Mindy Grodzki (Tucson Jewish Community Center aquatics director) and Bonnie Diamond.

The Tucsonans competed in six different sports: Basketball — Benny Louchheim, Ben Klinkenberg, Harrison Avigdor, Reagan Glynn, Braden Stuchen, Josh Goldberg and Austen Berens; Soccer — Kendall Karon and Shawn Spitzer; Tennis — Daniel Goldstein; Swimming — Bonnie Diamond and Dakota Kordsiemon; and Golf — Charlie Goode and Kevin Goldstein.

The delegates also participated in two tzedakah project, donating books about the Holocaust to replenish school libraries throughout Omaha, says delegation head Stu Epstein, and joining in the annual Day of Caring and Sharing, which this year focused on the Wyuka Cemetery, an all-faith cemetery in Lincoln that is also the home of the Nebraska Holocaust Memorial. Each delegation had a brick with their city’s name placed on a walkway to a butterfly garden being built to honor children who died in the Holocaust. The Tucson athletes also cleaned war veterans’ headstones and heard the testimony of a Holocaust survivor.

In the sports competition, Tucson’s athletes took home their share of medals, Epstein reports. Swimmers Bonnie Diamond and Dakota Kordsiemon won 23 medals, mostly gold, in all their races. On the links, Kevin Goldstein won gold in the 15-16 age category, while Charlie Goode took home a silver medal in the 13-14 group. Kevin won the closest to the pin with a shot only 22 inches away and Charlie won the longest drive. Kevin captured another gold medal in the team competition. Kendall Karon, playing on a mixed soccer team with St. Louis and Northern Virginia, carried the team to the bronze medal game, losing in overtime. Shawn Spitzer was mixed with the Phoenix soccer squad, which made it to the semi-finals. In tennis, Daniel Goldstein, competing in his first Maccabi games, made it to the quarter finals, finishing with a 3-3 record. Daniel is the third Goldstein brother to represent Tucson at the games.

“We are extremely excited about next year’s JCC Maccabi Games, which will be held July 24-Aug. 5 in Israel,” says Epstein. The two-week event will include a tour of Israel. The games will offer competition in basketball, bowling, soccer, swimming, table tennis, tennis and volleyball. Jewish teens ages 14-17 interested in participating should contact Stu Epstein at sepstein@tucsonjcc.org. Space is limited. Parent and family tour packages will also be available.