Last summer, for the first time since World War II, the Maccabiah Games did not go on as scheduled. But now, after having to wait an extra year due to the pandemic, three students from the Weber School — Aaron Bock, Caleb Ouanounou, and Harry Kitey — will finally get their chance to compete for the USA Junior teams when the contest resumes this July in Haifa, Jerusalem, Netanya and Tel Aviv.
Established in 1932, the Maccabiah Games are traditionally held quadrennially throughout Israel to glorify modern Jewish culture through spirited athletic competition. When they’re not busy competing, the young athletes have ample opportunities to engage with Israeli society by partaking in cultural events and sightseeing tours. Atlanta, in particular, has historically exerted a strong influence on the Maccabiah Games, as 14 young athletes and coaches represented the city during the last iteration of the Games back in 2017.
“I personally can’t wait to play this summer,” says Bock, a middle infielder from Sandy Springs, who will be representing the Weber community as a member of the Maccabiah USA 18U Baseball Team. (The U.S. has often fielded strong baseball teams in the Maccabiah Games. Back in 2009, a young Max Fried was the ace pitcher for the USA Juniors baseball team that took home the gold.)
“It will definitely be a slight adjustment since we will be competing together after only practicing for about a week, but I know for a fact that we will take care of business and bring home the gold for our country,” Bock said.
“Without a doubt, I am most excited to play in an environment that combines my two worlds: baseball and Judaism. I can’t wait to play ball in one of the most amazing places, represent my country across my chest, and compete against some of the best Jewish athletes in the world.”
The Maccabiah Games weren’t always the third largest multi-sport event in the world, trailing only the Olympics and FIFA World Cup. When the first Maccabiah Games were held in Ramat Gan in 1932, there were only 390 athletes from 18 countries participating. Today, the Games draw in over 10,000 young athletes from 80 countries, hence the moniker “Jewish Olympics.”
“I’m really excited to represent my country in Israel along with a great and talented team,” said Weber junior Caleb Ouanounou, who will be playing for the 18U basketball team. “I look forward to competing for a gold medal in a place that’s really special to me. I’m most looking forward to bonding with my teammates and playing at a very competitive level.”
Rounding out the triumvirate of Weber athletes representing Atlanta in Israel this summer is sophomore Harry Kitey, who will be holding down the frontcourt for the USA 16U hoops team.
“I’m looking forward to this opportunity to bring together all the sides of my world — my love of basketball and Israel,” says Kitey. “Having the chance to wear U.S.A. across my chest while representing my country and community is something that will stay with me for my whole life. Having had the chance to talk with other players and coaches who participated in past Maccabiah Games, one of the things I’m most excited about is the chance to build a connection in Israel with Jewish athletes from all over the world. I know those connections will last me my entire life.”
After last summer’s cancellation, to say that this field of athletes is ready to compete would be quite an understatement.
“I am so unbelievably grateful to be able to experience the opportunity with a really good group of talented guys,” adds Bock.
Barring any further setbacks, the 2022 Maccabiah Games are scheduled from July 12 through July 22.
- David Ostrowsky
- Weber School
- Caleb Ouanounou
- USA’s 18U Boys basketball team
- Maccabiah Games
- Aaron Bock
- USA 18U Baseball team
- Harry Kitey
- USA Juniors basketball
- USA Junior Teams
- tel aviv
- Jewish culture
- athletic competition
- cultural events
- Max Fried
- Sandy Springs
- USA Juniors baseball team
- Jewish Athletes
- FIFA World Cup
- Ramat Gan
- Jewish Olympics