Pittsburgh teens travel to Israel for international athletics competition

Pittsburgh teens travel to Israel for international athletics competition

Squash standout Nathan Feinstein is “excited” about the upcoming World Maccabiah Games. 
(Photo courtesy of Asad Khan)
Squash standout Nathan Feinstein is “excited” about the upcoming World Maccabiah Games. (Photo courtesy of Asad Khan)

Two Pittsburgh teens are traveling to Israel for an athletic adventure. Both Nathan Feinstein and Jackson Blaufeld will represent Maccabi USA at the upcoming 2017 World Maccabiah Games.

The Israel-based event, which some call the Jewish Olympics, will feature nearly 10,000 athletes from 80 countries competing in 47 sports. With opening ceremonies scheduled for Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem, the 20th Maccabiah Games will celebrate both the 50th anniversary of the reunification of the City of Gold and build on a heritage of athletics dating back to 1932, according to the organization’s website.

“I’m just excited to get out there and play and be with my team and have fun,” said Feinstein, an eighth-grader at Colfax Elementary School and a member of the Maccabi USA Juniors squash team.

With no experience in Maccabiah competitions and having never visited Israel, Feinstein is excited to knock off dual dreams in one trip.

Traveling there for the Games allows “me to combine two things that are really important to me, religion and sports,” he said.

“When I found out about Israel, I was like, ‘I’m all into this.’”

Feinstein first heard of the event a few years ago and subsequently started preparing for the Philadelphia-based tryouts.

With workouts five days a week at the Pittsburgh Golf Club, the not-yet high schooler, has developed a game that is “relatively” good. Although Feinstein hopes to medal at the event, he admitted that he still can’t defeat a certain hometown opponent — his father.

“He played in college and still plays, and I still can’t beat him,” said the son.

The racket-requiring game, which the younger Feinstein learned from his father (who similarly learned from his father), has much to offer, said the youthful competitor.  

“You’re constantly moving, and there’s constant action, and you really have to think,” he said.

“It challenges you and challenges your endurance and your mental strength, so it’s really fun.”

Though it lacks the larger recognition of other Maccabiah sports, such as basketball, swimming and track and field, Feinstein hopes that squash will garner more interest.

“It’s fun; it’s a good workout,” he said. “Look it up, and see what it is. It’s a lot more fun than most people think it is.”

In an earlier conversation with The Jewish Chronicle, Blaufeld, a sophomore at Pittsburgh Allderdice, said that the Games bring opportunities.

In traveling to Israel with Maccabi USA’s 18-and-under basketball team, “I get to represent Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh JCC in trying to bring back a gold medal.”

Despite the high goal, the trip itself is a special treat, said Blaufeld. “I am excited to go to Israel for the first time and compete for my country.”

Apart from permitting two young Steel City athletes the chance to bolster black and yellow in the land of blue and white, the July 4 through July 8 Games offer entrants more than a mere “festival of sports.” Participants also have a rare chance to connect, explained organizers.

“Besides meeting each other in competitive matches in the most qualified stadiums, Israelis and Jews from every corner of the world will join in countless programs designed to build strong relationships and significant shared experiences.”

Adam Reinherz can be reached at adamr@thejewishchronicle.net.

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