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Left: Jonathan Fonvielle, of Gloucester, Simon Honing, of Buffalo, and Reading’s Michael Rudzinsky at the Maccabiah Games. Right: Sherry Levin, coach of Team USA women’s basketball, celebrates after her team won the gold medal at the Maccabiah Games.

Local athletes compete in Maccabiah Games, where ‘the whole diaspora comes together in Israel’

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Local athletes compete in Maccabiah Games, where ‘the whole diaspora comes together in Israel’

Left: Jonathan Fonvielle, of Gloucester, Simon Honing, of Buffalo, and Reading’s Michael Rudzinsky at the Maccabiah Games. Right: Sherry Levin, coach of Team USA women’s basketball, celebrates after her team won the gold medal at the Maccabiah Games.

For Michael Rudzinsky of Reading, this year’s opening ceremonies for the Maccabiah Games in Israel were extra special. President Joe Biden made a historic visit to attend the ceremonies of the international sporting event. Not only was Rudzinsky competing in his third games in rugby, he was marching behind his father, David Rudzinsky, a former competitor who is now the head of the US rugby delegation. David Rudzinsky was a banner-carrier for the US and has been part of seven Maccabiah Games.

“That was a really eye-opening experience,” Michael Rudzinsky said of the opening ceremonies. “We haven’t ever had a president of the US show up.”

Other dignitaries present included Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid and President Isaac Herzog. The younger Rudzinsky walked into the ceremony wearing his father’s jacket from the 1989 games.

“My dad introduced me to Maccabiah,” he said. “It was special and cool.”

The 2022 Maccabiah Games took place July 14-25 and brought 1,400 American Jewish athletes to Israel. Overall, 10,000 athletes from 80 countries competed in 42 sports categories.

Highlights for Team USA included achievements by Massachusetts participants. Women’s basketball coach Sherry Levin added to her list of accomplishments, guiding the US to a gold medal. Currently the head girls’ basketball coach at Worcester Academy, Levin has won five golds in Maccabiah competitions – three at the

World Games in Israel, one in the European games, and one in the Pan American games.

“I’ve been very fortunate and blessed to have amazing players,” Levin said.

Of this year’s team, she said, “This group of 10 women was just fabulous. We really came together as a group. They were very unselfish.”

Team members included two Massachusetts players – Adara Groman of Hopkinton and Tess Sussman of Needham Heights.

The US defeated Israel in the gold-medal game after making it through a double round robin that also included Australia.

In 1981, Levin won two silver medals in the Maccabiah Games as a competitor – in basketball and in track, where she was on the 4×4 relay team.

This year, the US entered a women’s rugby team for the first time and won silver in the sevens category.

“This was an exciting accomplishment in the women’s [competition],” David Rudzinsky said. “The other highlight was really just the way the team and players from all over the country – who did not know each other before – the way they came together.”

On the men’s side, the sevens also medaled, winning bronze. Team USA defeated Israel to reach the podium.

“It was a very nice feeling,” said Michael Rudzinsky, who was chosen as team captain. “We ended the sevens on a high note.”


Team USA women’s basketball won the gold medal winners at this year’s Maccabiah Games. / Photo: Courtesy of Sherry Levin

In the 15s category, Team USA did not medal, but teammates Michael Rudzinsky and Jonathan Fonvielle had good memories of their experience.

“It’s just an incredible experience to be part of something so big,” said Fonvielle, a Gloucester resident who also played in the Pan-Am Maccabiah in 2015-16. “There’s a huge USA delegation … it’s just a pretty special thing to be a part of.”

“I’d encourage people – athletes of any kind – to get involved, try to play in the games,” he said, adding that there are other ways to go such as coaching or managing.

The 15s endured “really close games,” Fonvielle said. “The total point differential kept us from the medal round – three to four points. We had two really, really tight losses.”

Massachusetts members of Team USA rugby also included Alex Appel of South Easton; Devin Ibanez of Brookline; and on the women’s team, Rachael Harkavy of Boston.

While in Israel, members of the US delegation got to visit many parts of the country, including Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Masada, the Dead Sea, and Yad Vashem.

Levin also noted that the games are an opportunity to connect participants – “seeing athletes from around the world and the diaspora, whether it’s a Cuban baseball team … a rugby team from South Africa, a soccer team from Italy. It’s amazing to see the whole diaspora come together in Israel.”

There is also a community service component to the Maccabiah Games. In Michael Rudzinsky’s first games in 2013, he helped run a youth rugby clinic in Jaffa. During the 2017 games, he met athletes affiliated with an Israeli disability sports center. This year, he and his teammates participated in activities at a senior center.

“A lot of them were immigrants from all over the world,” he said. “Some came to Israel when it had just started, when it was founded as an independent state. It was amazing to hear people’s stories from the ‘50s, when they came to Israel. One of them said they even came in 1949 … it was really incredible to sit down with them.

There was a 72-year-old Iranian woman I sat with. She cracked jokes and made me laugh.”

At one point, he added, “We all stood up and started dancing and clapping, singing songs together. It was a special moment, heartwarming.”

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