After three weeks of competition and touring in Israel, 18-year-old Daniel Wilf of Livingston came home from the 19th Maccabiah Games a medaled athlete.
A member of Team USA’s silver medal-winning juniors golf team, Wilf was among the nearly 9,000 participants from 72 countries to take part in the quadrennial “Jewish Olympics” held in Israel July 17-30.
Wilf said he was inspired by his older brother Steven and his father Mark — both golfers — to take up the sport around age eight. He played all four of the years he attended Newark Academy in Livingston and golfed competitively every summer since his sophomore year. He will enter Vanderbilt University in September.
But though he has competed in many golf tournaments, the Maccabiah win was different. The scheduled four rounds took place at the Golf Center at Caesarea. “Doing something I’ve been doing my whole life, but doing it in Israel — at the only course in Israel — is a great feeling,” said Wilf in a video sponsored by the Jewish Agency.
“The whole team atmosphere of representing our country in the Maccabiah Games is a great feeling,” he added. “I feel like it’s a great opportunity to compete against the best Jewish athletes in the world. It brings out the best in all of us. It brings everyone together; it’s everyone’s homeland here.”
Daniel had been to Israel three times previously; his parents and extended family support a wide variety of Jewish causes and institutions, including the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, Yad Vashem, and Yeshiva University. Nevertheless, he said, visiting such places as Masada, Yad Vashem, and Jerusalem with his fellow USA teammates was a unique experience. The first week the athletes and coaches at the Games were treated to sightseeing tours and opportunities to get to know Israelis though the “Israel Connect” cultural program. Wilf said he especially enjoyed walking the streets of Jerusalem, witnessing all the historical and cultural sites.
Although his team fell behind the Israel juniors team, which won gold, Daniel told NJJN, “It was a great experience, and I’ll remember it for a long time.”