The 2009 JCC Maccabi Youth Games in Westchester County, N.Y., were a smashing success for Pittsburgh area teams — both in and out of competition.
On the field, the JCC boys basketball team finished in fourth place out of 20, and the boys 16 and under baseball team won gold in the consolation bracket.
Individual performers were even more impressive: Destin Groff, a swimmer, brought home six gold medals and four silver medals, along with other local athletes who brought back silver and bronze medals in events from swimming to golf.
“We had a good year and a great group of kids,” said Alan Mallinger, organizer of JCC of Pittsburgh’s team.
Off the playing fields, Mallinger lauded the teams’ involvement in a tzedaka project. He said they took time to bring food to families in need. They were also involved in “caring and sharing” programs where Israeli soldiers spoke to the kids and taught them self-defense.
The teams also got a real New York experience while there: the opening ceremonies were held at Madison Square Garden and emceed by ESPN’s Chris Berman.
“That got all the kids really excited for the tournament,” Mallinger said.
Further exploration of the region took place after the daytime games, when the kids got to see landmarks like the Bronx Zoo and Rye Playland Amusement Park.
The JCC Maccabi Youth Games began in 1982 for Jewish teenagers around the world, and are the largest organized sports program for Jewish teenagers in the world. This year, the event hosted more than 5,000 athletes, ages 12 to 16 from around the world in three locations: Westchester, San Antonio and San Francisco.
(Derek Kwait can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)