For First Time, Maccabiah Games Welcomes Cuban Delegation

July 19, 2013 11:22 am 3 comments

Maccabiah medals in 2009. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

For the first time in its 81-year history, the Maccabiah Games this year welcomed a Cuban delegation to its competition, The New York Times reported.

In fact, there are 21 countries participating for the first time in this 19th Maccabiah, including newcomers such as Mongolia, Curaçao and Ecuador. But Cuba is especially notable because of previous restrictions set by the Communist regime running the small Caribbean island on citizens traveling abroad.

56 Jewish Cuban athletes and coaches from the nation’s roughly 1,500 Jews marched Thursday night in the Maccabiah’s opening ceremony, The Times reports.

Even though Cuba has no diplomatic relations with Israel, the delegation’s participation was made possible because of recently relaxed travel restrictions for large groups leaving Havana. Jewish-American philanthropists donated about $200,000 to cover their costs.

Two of the athletes, Roxana González, 25, and her brother Rafael, 24, had barely picked up a bow and arrow since their days as champion high school archers in Cuba.

The Israelis provided the coaching and the gear. “It was the best equipment we have ever used,” Mr. González said.

“They have been a bit rusty at the beginning because they haven’t been behind the bow for a long time,” said Hillel Kleiner, an Israeli archer and architect who has doubled as a chauffeur for the Cuban siblings. “It amazes me that they came here without their bows. I cannot part with my bow for more than two days.”

Walking around Jerusalem on Wednesday evening, they ran into many athletes from around the world. “Everyone is surprised that there are Jews in Cuba,” Rafael González told The Times.

Individual Cuban athletes have participated in previous Maccabiahs — Hella Eskenazi, the leader of this year’s team, traveled alone to compete in karate in 1997 — but an official delegation has never taken part.

It happened this year largely because of Jeffrey Sudikoff, a Los Angeles venture capitalist who in 2011 started a project called Small and Lost Communities, to bring new delegations to the Maccabiah. He donated $500,000 of the $1.5 million it cost to bring 300 athletes from countries participating for the first time this year.

Other donors also helped out. The Cubans’ blue-and-white uniforms, with red stripes, were provided by Steve Tisch, the film and television producer who is a co-owner of the New York Giants. Tisch learned of the athletes’ aspirations to go to the games while visiting the Jewish Community House in Havana this April. He had the uniforms made in Argentina, not wanting to flout U.S. restrictions on doing business with Cuba.

“It’s not like picking up the phone and calling Nike and asking for a favor, but I wanted to keep it as simple as possible,” Mr. Tisch said. “It was a unique moment where Judaism and sports and competition could all meet.”

3 Comments

  • For some reason, Mrs. Eskenazi and her crew are selling a different version of the real story about Cuba at the Maccabi games.

    Back to 1997, there was a SMALL OFFICIAL delegation attending the Maccabiah games. There were not 40, but 3 athletes, two female athletes named the same way, Hella and a male athlete, Marcos Frometa Farin. They all received an official authorization and exit permit directly from the Cuban government to attend the Maccabi games and traveled together with the President of the Cuban Jewish Community, Dr. Jose Miller and the Cuban Jewish Community secretary.

    You can get in contact with these participants easily, as they made aliah and are now living out of Cuba. Mrs. Eskenazi is the only one still in the Island.

  • Pleased to read about the larger participation in the
    Maccabiah Games, but a small correction is needed.

    Cuba is not a “small Caribbean island”, in fact it is the
    largest island in the entire Caribbean:
    Abt. 110.000 km2
    42.000 sq miles
    11.000.000 inhabitants.
    And NO, I am not Cuban!
    I hope all participants have a GREAT time in Israel!
    Shalom.

  • “21 countries participating for the first time in this 19th Maccabiah,”
    Let Peace come …and …wouldn’t it be wonderful when the PA recognizes Israel and could even have one of their athletes participate?

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Music US & Canada Lady Gaga Accepts ADL Award: ‘Your Philosophies Are So in Line With Ours’ (VIDEO)

    Lady Gaga Accepts ADL Award: ‘Your Philosophies Are So in Line With Ours’ (VIDEO)

    Pop superstar Lady Gaga on Thursday accepted an award from Jewish human rights group the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on behalf of her Born This Way Foundation, which strives to combat bullying among young people. “Your philosophies are so in line with ours,” she said of the ADL upon accepting the Making a Difference Award in a videotaped message, which was shown at a ceremony in New York City. “We want to help young people know that their feelings and who they are on [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Personalities At 80, Singer-Songwriter Leonard Cohen’s Jewish Roots ‘Very Much Intact’

    At 80, Singer-Songwriter Leonard Cohen’s Jewish Roots ‘Very Much Intact’

    JNS.org – Eighty years young, Leonard Cohen fits many descriptions—singer, songwriter, poet, novelist, monk. From his Jewish upbringing in Canada to the present day, Cohen has always explored his spiritual side. This month, the singer-songwriter released the CD (May 12) and iTunes (on May 8 of this year) formats of his latest album, Can’t Forget: A Souvenir of the Grand Tour, which features live recordings from his world tours in 2012 and 2013. Last year, Cohen’s Popular Problems was voted by Rolling Stone [...]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports FIFA Head Says Israel Should Not be Booted From World Soccer Association

    FIFA Head Says Israel Should Not be Booted From World Soccer Association

    JNS.org – Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) head Sepp Blatter said during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that contrary to Palestinian complaints, Israel has not violated any FIFA statutes and should not be suspended from international soccer’s governing body. “We should not come to one federation saying we will exclude them,” said Blatter, the Jerusalem Post reported. “If the national association is fulfilling its obligations then there is no need to intervene,” he said. “I’m on a [...]

    Read more →
  • Featured Middle East Sports Jewish Rights Group Slams Palestinian Attempts to Suspend Israel From FIFA

    Jewish Rights Group Slams Palestinian Attempts to Suspend Israel From FIFA

    Jewish human rights group the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) said on Tuesday it was “appalled” by a Palestinian Football Association initiative to suspend Israel from FIFA, calling it another “front waged in the context of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign.” “We are appalled at the temerity of the Palestinan Football Association (PFA) demand that FIFA suspend Israel at your forthcoming Congress in Zurich,” wrote the group’s international relations director, Dr. Shimon Samuels, in a letter to FIFA President Joseph [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada Star of Auschwitz Thriller Says ‘God Was Holding the Hand of Every Jew in the Gas Chamber’ (VIDEO)

    Star of Auschwitz Thriller Says ‘God Was Holding the Hand of Every Jew in the Gas Chamber’ (VIDEO)

    The lead actor in Son of Saul, an Auschwitz thriller featured at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, told the UK’s The Guardian that he believes God was “holding the hand” of each Jew who died in the Nazi gas chambers during the Holocaust. “I do not for one nanosecond like to pretend that God is off the hook. He could and should have stopped it at a much earlier stage,” Géza Röhrig, 48, said. ”But I would not be able to get [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Backstreet Boys Singer Howie D Gushes Over Masada During Israel Trip

    Backstreet Boys Singer Howie D Gushes Over Masada During Israel Trip

    Backstreet Boys singer Howie Dorough took to Instagram on Tuesday to marvel about climbing the famed Masada fortress with his band during their visit to Israel, where they will perform this week for the first time. The group’s second day of sightseeing in the Jewish state included the Masada hike, and taking a mud bath at the Dead Sea. A picture from the band’s official Twitter page shows the five singers covered in mud. While relaxing in the Dead Sea, [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews US & Canada ‘Arms and the Dudes:’ New Book, Film Detail How Ex-Orthodox Yeshiva Guys Became Top Suppliers for Afghan Army

    ‘Arms and the Dudes:’ New Book, Film Detail How Ex-Orthodox Yeshiva Guys Became Top Suppliers for Afghan Army

    A new book and its upcoming film adaptation tell the true story of how three former yeshiva students who habitually smoked marijuana scored a $300 million contract from the U.S. government to supply weapons for the Afghan Army, the New York Daily News reported on Sunday. Arms and the Dudes details how the Miami Beach potheads became “the most unlikely gunrunners in history,” according to the book’s author, investigative reporter Guy Lawson. The tale begins with Efraim Diveroli, nephew of [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Theater Natalie Portman: Israel-Themed ‘A Tale of Love and Darkness’ Not Political

    Natalie Portman: Israel-Themed ‘A Tale of Love and Darkness’ Not Political

    JNS.org – Natalie Portman, who directs and stars in the new Hebrew-language film adaptation of author Amos Oz’s A Tale of Love and Darkness, says that despite Oz’s record as a vocal left-wing critic of Israel, her film is not political. Like the book on which it is based, Portman’s film is about a young boy at the time of the founding of the state of Israel. “I think the movie is very much about this very particular, specific family story. Of [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.