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...

  • Blogs Music Beatlemania Invades the Gaza Strip (SATIRE)

    Beatlemania Invades the Gaza Strip (SATIRE)

    As Hamas loses its grip on power in the Gaza Strip as a result of war, poverty and disillusionment, the Islamist terrorist group has developed an ingenious way to raise the moral of the 1.7 million Palestinian Arabs it was elected to serve. While currently focused on delivering a rocket into every Israeli home, Hamas has not left its own people behind. To gently wipe away the tears of children strategically placed inside kindergartens as human shields, the Hamas Interior Ministry has [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Spirituality/Tradition Removing Jesus’ Jewish Identity From Artwork

    Removing Jesus’ Jewish Identity From Artwork

    In a strong statement that challenges the historic divide between Christianity and Judaism, Pope Francis recently proclaimed, “Inside every Christian is a Jew.” But if you look at Renaissance artworks that depict Jesus, you will not find any evidence of a Jew inside the Christianized Jesus — even though the Gospels in the New Testament tell us that Jesus was Jewish to the core. Getting that point across to the public is a daunting task, as I learned in interviews I [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Personalities Recycling His Roots

    Recycling His Roots

    JNS.org – Having started his career playing on his family’s pots and pans, Jewish musician Billy Jonas has maintained this homemade performance ethic while spreading his messages of simple living and environmentalism to a shared home throughout the world. After beginning in the kitchen, Jonas soon moved to the music room, where he picked up the piano, guitar, and trombone. These days, the multi-talented multi-instrumentalist plays on with pretty much anything he can find, including cans, bottles buckets, and other recycled-object [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Personalities Jewish Renewal Movement Founder’s Insights Form a New Guide for Senior Living

    Jewish Renewal Movement Founder’s Insights Form a New Guide for Senior Living

    JNS.org – Sara Davidson’s The December Project is a new book that should be read by all senior citizens, and by those who hope to live a long life, for it raises a question that most of us have not been taught how to answer: What should we do in that final stage of our lives? Many of us continue working past the traditional retirement age of 65, not because we need the money and not because we find the [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish History Why the Holocaust Occurred in Germany, and Why So Few Resisted (REVIEW)

    Why the Holocaust Occurred in Germany, and Why So Few Resisted (REVIEW)

    It’s hard to make a new contribution to the field of Holocaust studies,  but German historian Götz Aly accomplishes just that in Why the Germans, Why the Jews? His premise is that the origins of the Holocaust were rooted in the specific anti-Semitism found in Germany in the decades and centuries before World War II. Aly (who is not Jewish) seeks to prove his theory by studying only pre-Holocaust history, and tracing how the German people’s envy and hatred of [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Looking at Anti-Israel Celebrities and Their Brands

    Looking at Anti-Israel Celebrities and Their Brands

    JNS.org – During the current conflict in Gaza a number of celebrities have voiced their opinions in support of either the Israeli or Palestinian positions. But others—be it during Operation Protective Edge or at other times—have gone further than simply supporting the Palestinians by actively supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, making false accusations about the Jewish state, ignoring Israel’s position on the conflict, or justifying the actions of the terrorist group Hamas. Many of these [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Sports Israeli UFC Fighter Returns to Jewish State to Rejoin IDF

    Israeli UFC Fighter Returns to Jewish State to Rejoin IDF

    JNS.org – Days after winning his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) featherweight bout against Steven Siler on July 26, Israeli-born mixed martial arts competitor Noad Lahat boarded a plane for his native country, choosing to temporarily exit UFC’s octagonal cage to rejoin the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) as a paratrooper for its operation against Hamas in Gaza. Except he didn’t actually consider it a choice. “When [our] home is in danger, there is no other way for us [but to serve [...]

    Read more →
  • Education Why We Should Invest in Jewish Children

    Why We Should Invest in Jewish Children

    JNS.org – My wife Suzy and I will never forget our wedding day. It was not just the uplifting ceremony and beautiful party that left an indelible mark. Some life-altering advice that we received from one of our guests informed and shaped our lives from that day forward. My high school teacher, Rabbi Moshe Yagid, pulled us aside just before the chuppah and challenged us to choose one mitzvah that would be the foundation of our marriage and our lives. He explained [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.