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Princeton Day School student wins gold at Maccabi Games
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Princeton Day School student wins gold at Maccabi Games

The Philadelphia girls’ basketball team won gold in the 2017 Miami JCC Maccabi Games; Brooke Smukler of Princeton Day School is in the middle of the front row. Photo courtesy Lisa Smukler
The Philadelphia girls’ basketball team won gold in the 2017 Miami JCC Maccabi Games; Brooke Smukler of Princeton Day School is in the middle of the front row. Photo courtesy Lisa Smukler

Playing sports has always been a family thing for Brooke Smukler. 

The daughter of Lisa and Andrew Smukler, Brooke’s first experience with sports came from sitting on her mother’s lap while watching her older siblings, Robby and Janie, play varsity soccer and basketball at Princeton Day School. Her sibs also participated in the Maccabi games, playing for the Ewing JCC in junior games in Harrisburg, Pa., Cherry Hill; and Philadelphia, and Janie competed in the JCC Maccabi Games in Baltimore in 2010, where she won a gold medal. 

Now a junior at Princeton Day School, Brooke has followed in their footsteps, playing varsity soccer and basketball since her freshman year. 

And like her brother and sister, Brooke’s athletic skills led her to the Maccabi Games. Her basketball team, comprised of young women from the Philadelphia area, won gold in the 2017 JCC Maccabi Games, which were held Aug. 6-11 in Miami. 

Even though Brooke knew about the Maccabi games, she tried out for the team “to see if I’d like it, and I did,” she told NJJN. Initially she was worried she wouldn’t know anyone, but ran into Jordyn Sherman, whom she played basketball with in Newtown under the coaching tutelage of Jordyn’s father, Adam.

Part of the fun of the games, she said, was staying in a house with nine other athletes, three from Toronto and six from Philadelphia, five of whom were on her team. “That’s how I got close with people on my team,” Brooke said, adding that Dana and Jim Cohen, who hosted the athletes, “took us everywhere.”

Brooke, a member of The Jewish Center in Princeton, told NJJN that she first played soccer when she was in preschool, and she hasn’t stopped competing since: basketball at Littlebrook Elementary School in Princeton, Princeton Rec softball, club soccer, Princeton travel basketball, and AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) basketball in Robbinsville and Newtown.

As a student ambassador at Princeton Day School, Brooke gives tours to potential students, and since her freshman year she has been part of the Jewish Community Youth Foundation (JCYF), which educates teens about philanthropy. The students get an opportunity to make site visits to nonprofits they are investigating as part of JCYF. Two of Brooke’s favorites were a homeless shelter and a “program for Jews and Palestinians,” in which they “shared an artifact from their culture and taught about their cultures and talked about equality.”

The Maccabi program was not just impressive because of the high level of competition; for Lisa it focused on “the spirit of rachmanus [mercy], sportsmanship,” which meant “if you’re better than the other team, don’t run up the score; don’t brag; be a good sport.”

All the athletes also participated in Sole Hope, a service project for the JCC, where they helped create shoes to be shipped to poor countries by cutting patterns from jeans that would become the upper part of a pair of shoes that would then be attached to a sole.

Brooked observed that there was more to the games than the sports.

“I always love playing competitive basketball,” she said, “but in the Maccabi Games I especially liked meeting Jewish kids like me from around the world and getting to compete and socialize with them.”

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