The Maccabiah games are an international, Jewish multi-sporting event that takes place in Israel every four years. Jewish people come from around the world participate in this incredible tournament. The summer of 2021 will mark the its 21st anniversary.
Sunday afternoon, Oct 27, 2019, saw the first ever Maccabi Canada reunion. It took at the YW-YMHA. It was an emotional day, as a group of past and present Maccabi Canada participants had the opportunity to meet up and reminisce about the special times they shared.
Howard Stupp, a 1976 Olympian alumnus and gold medalist at the Maccabiah Games, gave a heartwarming speech. He was introduced by legend, Dick Pound, an Olympian swimmer who went on to become the vice president of the International Olympic Committee from 1987 to 1991. The highlight of the afternoon was when four pillars of the Maccbiah organization were honoured: Fred Oberlander, Joey Richman, Abe Luxenberg, and Gordie Schwartz.
Daniel Smajovits, Quebec co-chair of Maccabi Canada, called upon Gary Ulrich and Roy Salomon to talk about the four honourees. In describing the first honouree, Gordie Schwartz, Mr. Ulrich noted that he was not an athlete at the games but was a major supporter of Maccabi Canada, was president of the Jewish Community Foundation and chairman of the Combined Jewish Appeal. “Gordie Schwartz was one of a kind, a unique man with a special ability to make anyone feel important,” said Mr. Ullrich.
Fred Oberlander participated in the 1953 Maccabiah Games and was named outstanding Jewish World Athlete that same year. He participated in the 1948 Olympics, serving as team captain for Great Britain. He was inducted to the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 1991. “His legacy lives in each participant and supporter of Maccabi Canada,” said an emotional Gary Ulrich.
The third honouree was Abe Luxenberg, a member of the 1957 gold medal water polo team. “Abe was a true leader and spearheaded a myriad of projects. This aided the progression and growth of Maccabi Canada,” said Mr. Salomon.
The last honouree introduced was Joey Richman. The Maccabiah Games played a very important part of his life as he both participated and coached a variety of events. He won the Grey Cup with the Toronto Argonauts and coached in the Olympics. “Every sport he took part in, Joey excelled. He was dedicated to Maccabi. He was devoted, a man of great character and a man of great skill,” said Roy Salomon.
The speakers and guests all shared memories of the Maccabiah Games and agreed that the opening ceremonies definitely stood out. Jordan Simon, a member of the 2017 men’s gold medal winning hockey team said, “I’m not sure how the Olympics are able to top the Maccabiah’s opening ceremonies. Just seeing all of the Jewish people come together in one massive arena took my breath away.”
It was a heartwarming afternoon of sharing fond memories and paying tribute to key players of Maccabi Canada.