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...

  • Jewish Identity Sports Cycling the Desert: New Israel Bike Trail Connects Mitzpe Ramon to Eilat

    Cycling the Desert: New Israel Bike Trail Connects Mitzpe Ramon to Eilat

    As the popularity of cycling continues to increase across the world, Israel is working to develop cycling trails that make the country’s spectacular desert accessible to cyclists. The southern segment of the Israel Bike Trail was inaugurated on Feb. 24 and offers for the first time a unique, uninterrupted 8-day cycling experience after six years of planning and development. The southern section of the Israel Bike Trail stretches over 300 kilometers in length and is divided into eight segments for mountain biking, [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Forthcoming Major Action Movies Inspired by Jewish Comic Artist Jack Kirby

    Forthcoming Major Action Movies Inspired by Jewish Comic Artist Jack Kirby

    JNS.org – With the recent Oscars in the rearview mirror, Hollywood’s attention now shifts to the rest of this year’s big-screen lineup. Two of the major action films coming up in 2015—Avengers: Age of Ultron, which hits theaters in May, and the third film in the Fantastic Four series, slated for an August release—have Jewish roots that the average moviegoer might be unaware of. As it turns out, it took a tough Jewish kid from New York City’s Lower East [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity When Torah Teaches Life and Life Teaches Torah (REVIEW)

    When Torah Teaches Life and Life Teaches Torah (REVIEW)

    JNS.org – Rabbi Gordon Tucker spent the first 20 years of his career teaching at the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) and the next 20 years as the rabbi of Temple Israel Center in White Plains, N.Y. I confess that when I heard about the order of those events, I thought that Tucker’s move from academia to the pulpit was strange. Firstly, I could not imagine anyone filling the place of my friend, Arnold Turetsky, who was such a talented [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Oscars 2015: Reflecting on Love at First Sight

    Oscars 2015: Reflecting on Love at First Sight

    JNS.org – I’m in love, and have been for a long time. It’s a relationship filled with laughter, tears, intrigue, and surprise. It was love at first sight, back when I was a little girl—with an extra-terrestrial that longed to go home. From then on, that love has never wavered, and isn’t reserved for one, but for oh so many—Ferris Bueller, Annie Hall, Tootsie, Harry and Sally, Marty McFly, Atticus Finch, Danny Zuko, Yentl, that little dog Toto, Mrs. Doubtfire, [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews Examining America’s First Foray into the Middle East (REVIEW)

    Examining America’s First Foray into the Middle East (REVIEW)

    At the turn of the 21st century through today, American involvement in Middle Eastern politics runs through the Central Intelligence Agency. In America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East, historian Hugh Wilford shows this has always been the case. Wilford methodically traces the lives and work of the agency’s three most prominent officers in the Middle East: Kermit “Kim” Roosevelt was the grandson of president Theodore Roosevelt, and the first head of [...]

    Read more →
  • Relationships US & Canada Seniors at Los Angeles Jewish Home Give Witty Dating Advice Ahead of Valentine’s Day (VIDEO)

    Seniors at Los Angeles Jewish Home Give Witty Dating Advice Ahead of Valentine’s Day (VIDEO)

    Residents of the Los Angeles Jewish Home give dating advice to a young Jewish man in a comedic video posted Monday on YouTube just in time for Valentine’s Day. Jonathan, an associate at the Jewish home, quizzes the senior citizens on an array of topics including having sex on the first date, kissing a girl, who should pay for dinner and whether online dating is a good idea. When the 28-year-old asks a male resident named Lee about his experiences [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish History Kutsher’s Documentary an Amazing, and Tragic, Look at the Past (REVIEW)

    Kutsher’s Documentary an Amazing, and Tragic, Look at the Past (REVIEW)

    Anyone who spent time in the Jewish Catskills hotels – especially those like me, who returned for decades – must see the new documentary,”Welcome to Kutsher’s: The Last Catskills Resort.” Not only will the film transport you back to the glory days of your youth and thousands of memories, but it will also make you long for a world that is now lost forever. I returned to Kutsher’s one last time in the summer of 2009, but by then, the [...]

    Read more →
  • Education Jewish Identity Lifestyle Riding the Wave of Change in Part-Time Jewish Education

    Riding the Wave of Change in Part-Time Jewish Education

    JNS.org – Amid the numerous studies and analyses regarding Jewish American life, a simple fact remains: part-time Jewish education is the most popular vehicle for Jewish education in North America. Whenever and wherever parents choose Jewish education for their children, we have a communal responsibility to devote the necessary time and resources to deliver dynamic, effective learning experiences. The only way we can do this is by creating space for conversations and knowledge-sharing around innovative new education models. That also [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.