The town of Holland, Pa., is flexing its muscles this summer. With a population of just 40,000, the Bucks County community is sending seven U.S. team members to the Maccabiah Games in Israel. The Holland contingent includes six competing athletes and assistant team manager Daniel Kurtz.
Kurtz, 44, will share responsibility for all members of the U.S. contingent. A veteran of the quadrennial tournament, which begins July 17, Kurtz coached judo teams in 2001 and 2005, and performed administrative duties in 2009.
A strong believer in persistence, Kurtz told NJJN via phone that his Maccabiah experience began with two failed tryouts in 1993 and 1997. But, he said, “I wouldn’t give up. I sharpened my focus. I developed a clear plan to reach my goal.”
One Holland resident selected for the team — Aaron Binder — may not see action. When interviewed by NJJN, the 42-year-old masters softball player was suffering from an injury and facing possible surgery.
“Unfortunately, a lifetime of pitching in New England weather — I grew up in Portland, Maine, and played baseball at Brandeis University in Massachusetts — has taken a toll on my elbow,” he said. “It will likely keep me from playing for Team USA in 2013. But as soon as I am able, I plan to begin training for 2017.”
Three members of the Holland contingent are soccer players — Ryan Jones, 21, and Council Rock High School South teammates Elissa Dotzman, 15, and Gabrielle Rosenfeld, 17.
Jones, a graduate of Marywood University in Scranton, Pa., made the NSCAA D3 Scholar All American 3rd Team in 2012 — a first for Marywood.
Interviewed via e-mail, he said he will play in the men’s open division (ages 18-35) and that he was “elated” to make the Maccabiah team, “knowing that I’d be representing the United States in the third-largest games in the world, and that I would be visiting the birthplace of religions.”
Elissa has two older brothers who also are soccer players. “Growing up in a soccer family, I started playing at the age of four,” Elissa told NJJN. “I have been a varsity starter for my high school team since my freshman year and was also named Rookie of the Year for the team…. Most recently, in 2013 my club team won the Region One Colonial League Championship.”
“To be able to play the game that I love while in Israel is more than I could imagine,” she said.
A year ahead of Elissa, Gabrielle will enter her senior year in September. She has already committed to play Division I soccer at Stony Brook University in New York and has been a three-year, all-league selection for the high school lacrosse team, where, she said, “I surpassed the 100-goal mark midway through last season.”
In the running
At 16, Ben Kenis will be competing for the USA junior judo team. His greatest sports achievement so far, he said, was a third-place finish at the Junior National Championship.
In an e-mail, Ben credited coach Lou Moyerman and a supportive family for his success. “My participation in sports” — he also wrestles — “taught me to stick with things.”
Michael Gross, 45, is set to run in the masters men’s half-marathon. In recent years, he has captained General Electric’s corporate road-racing team and led the Greater Philadelphia Track Club to a team victory in the Broad Street Run.
He has waited a long time for his Maccabiah moment. “I first heard about the Maccabiah games back when I was running cross-country and track in high school in the early 1980s,” Gross said. “Although I was a state finalist in high school and I ran both cross-country and track at Penn State, I never had the opportunity to participate in the Maccabiah Games.
At 45 and still running well, he said, “I hope to grab this special opportunity while it is here and show that we can still take pride in being Jewish and compete at the highest level, even at my age.
“I hope my effort will inspire others.”