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PAGE 2A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JULY 28, 2017 Yonatan Sindel/Flash90 Fireworks at the opening ceremony of the 20th Maccabiah Games in Jerusalem, July 6, 2017. By Adam Abrams JNS.org Some 7,000 Jewish athletes from 80 countries prepared to head back to their home countries this week following the 20th Maccabiah Games, a two-week event that is being praised for helping create "positive connections" to Israel. The Jewish athletes from overseas had arrived in Israel in early July, joining 2,500 Is- raeli contestants in the world's third-largest sporting event, which convenes every four years and is often dubbed the "Jewish Olympics." This year's Hillel is all over--and all under--the place! Assistant Director of Hillel Sam Friedman, Danielle McKinstnj and Andrew Max took to the sea and took this banner for Hillel with them, displaying it on the bottom of the ocean. Hillel CEO Aaron Well commented, "We love Hillel at UCF from the bottoms of our hearts and now ap- parently.., the ocean floor!" Two cemetery plots at Congregation of Reform Judaism Cemetery located at Woodlawn Memorial Park in Gotha, FL Call 1-678-778-8298 games, hosted in Jerusalem, had the added significance of coinciding with the 50th an- niversary of the reunification of Israel's capital city. Tamir Goodman, a for- mer Maccabiah athlete who gained fame during his high school basketball career in 1999, when Sports Illustrated magazine nicknamed him the "Jewish Jordan," told JNS. org, "The 2017 games were all-around great--great for the athletes, great for Israel and great for the thousands of fans who got to watch and cheer on the teams." Contestants competed in 43 different sports at complexes throughout Is- rael. Soccer was the largest competition, with more than 1,400 athletes from 20 countries participating. In addition to the athletes, as many as 20,000 international visitors attended the games, injectingaround $100 million into Israel's economy. "Most of the federations who sent athletes to Israel took the competition very se- riously," Ilan Kowalsky, head of the Sports Department at Israel's Interdisciplinary Center research college in Herzliya and a basketball coach, told JNS.org. "They did not send third- [division] or fourth-division athletes. Only the top swimmers, basketball Rachel Serena Levine of Orlando graduated at the top of a class of more than 5,000 bachelor's degree candidates during the 134th Commence- ment at the University of Southern California held in May. A member of Temple Shir Shalom, Oviedo, and a graduate of the Center for International Studies at Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando, Levine, and 16 other straight-A students, was honored on May 11, 2017, as part of a Wall of Scholars recognition ceremony held in the Leavey Library on the Los Angeles, California, campus. As a recipient of the Emma Josephine Bradley Bovard Award, her name will be etched into glass panels lining the walls of the Weingart Reading Room in the Leavey Library. At the 2017 Student Rec- ognition Ceremony held earlier in the day, Rachel, a 2016 recipient of the Phi Beta Kappa key, received the Order of Troy, awarded to graduat- ing undergraduates whose players and lacrosse players came to compete." Some of the top Israeli and international Jewish athletes who competed in the 2017 Maccabiah Games were Israeli Olympic judo bronze medal- ists Ori Sasson and Yarden Gerbi, French Olympic gold medalist swimmer Fabien Gilot, and American Olym- pic gold medalist swimmer Anthony Ervin. Ervin who has won four Olympic medals--finished the Maccabiah Games with three gold medals, in the 100-meter freestyle, the 50-meter freestyle and the 4xl00m medley relay, setting Maccabiah records with his times in the latter two events. "Thousands of people came from all over the world and connected with Israel during the Maccabiah Games. This is very important for Israel," said Kowalsky. "Israel is in a difficult po- litical situation with issues such as the recent anti-Israel motions passed at UNESCO, and constant attacks from the BDS movement...these young athletes, who travel here for the games with their families, and may have encountered anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiments in their home countries, experience Israel in a very positive way, through sport, and take these experi- leadership, in conjunction with academic excellence, has provided significant value to the USC community, as well as being recognized as a Steven and Kathryn Sample USC Renaissance Scholar, recognizing students who excel in two or more unrelated disciplines. During her senior year at USC, Levine helped found the organization USC Un- dergraduates Studying East Asia, which provided a venue for students in the various East Asian Language and Culture disciplines to meet and share cultural aspects of their programs. She was also a tutor in the Athletic Services department, as well as a men- tor to other tutors. Levine has been award a Bachelor o fArts,summa cure laude, in EastAsian Language and Culture, with minors in International Relations and Psychology. She has enrolled in the Master of Arts in Asian Studies program at Florida In- ternational University where she will be a teaching as- sistant. ences back home with them," he said, adding, "Sports, and the arts, are the only things that can make such positive connections to Israel." Kowalsky's perspective comes from his decades of experience using sports to break down cultural and po- litical barriers. He served as head coach of Israel's under-20 women's basketball team in the 2009 Maccabiah Games, guiding the squad to win gold in the finals against the American team. Kowalskywas due to participate in the 2017 competition as the technical delegate for 3-on-3 basketball, which had been billed as a highlight of this year's games, but the event was cancelled because not enough players signed up to compete. In addition toworkingwith Israeli athletes, Kowalsky in 2006 headed an initia- tive dubbed the "Friendship Games" in collaboration with Ed Peskowitz, former co-own- er of the National Basketball Association's Atlanta Hawks. The initiative offered college students from 17 different countries and territories the opportunity to compete in a basketball tournament and tour Israel together. Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians all participated. "For seven days, players from 17 countries played basketball and stayed in the same hotels together. Within just a few days, these athletes became friends and many stayed in touch with each other," said Kowalsky. Kowalsky's involvement with the Friendship Games led to him serving as head coach ofa Palestinian Authority (PA) basketball team after he origi- nally volunteered to coach the players without pay. Kowalsky continued in this capacity for two years until "politics came inside," he said. "The president of the Pales- tinian International Olympic Committee (Jibril Rajoub) said to the players, 'If this Jewish coach from Israel will continue to practice with you, you cannot play in the Pales- tinian league,'" Kowalsky said. Ironically, it was Kowalsky who founded the PA's basket- ball league. "When politics comes in- side [sports] we have a prob- lem, but when you take sport in its purest form, people are coming to have fun and enjoy their time and to get to know each other. This is why the Maccabiah Games is such a great idea," Kowalsky said. "You know that peace between China and the U.S. started with table tennis," he said. "My belief is that sport can open a door for the next peace movement." Graduate Rachel Serena Levine Temple Israel will be tem- porarily transformed into a comedy club on Saturday, Aug. 12, as Orlando's famous SAK Comedy Lab entertains the crowdwith a personalized, one-hour show sure to make you laugh. Start the night off with dessert, coffee, and schmoozing in the social hall at 8 p.m., followed by a brief but beautiful Havdal- lah service led by Rabbi Neely in the sanctuary. Stay in the sanctuary after the service, and grab a seat for the comedy show from 9 to 10 p.m., complete with an MC and music. The show is $10 per person and appropriate for kids 10 and up. Free babysitting is available for younger children, making this an easy and unique date night featuring some of Orlando's funniest folks! Please RSVP by Monday, Aug. 7 at http://tiflorida.org/ sak-comedy-lab-event/.