Team USA Prepares for Maccabi Youth Games

Everett Kurtz and Olivia Kurtz will represent Team USA at the Maccabi Youth Games this summer. | Photo provided

Everett Kurtz is just 13, but for as long as he can remember he’s wanted a Maccabi USA soccer jersey to call his own.

A navy blue replica hung on a bedroom wall for years, resting on a clothes hanger fastened by a thumbtack. It was an adult medium — too spacious to fit around his diminutive body. So it dangled on the wall, representing where he wanted to go.

He doesn’t have to dream anymore. On a June evening, Everett flopped himself on the couch after a long run and dozed off, stirring but not waking when his father came home and placed a box by his side. He awoke later with a question.

“Is this my box?”

“Yes,” said his father, Dan Kurtz.

Everett looked at the box for a minute, and then another. Eventually he sat on the floor and tore into it, pulling out a navy blue Maccabi USA soccer jersey, No. 12. Beaming, he looked at the jersey, then at his father, then back at the jersey.

“He took his time to savor it,” Dan Kurtz said.

From July 22 through Aug. 2, Everett and his sister, Olivia, will be part of a delegation of 161 American Jews born between 2002-04 representing Team USA at the Maccabi Youth Games in Israel. For the Kurtz siblings, who are from Holland in Bucks County and will both be playing soccer, the trip holds special significance considering their father’s ties to the games.

Dan Kurtz works for Maccabi USA as an alumni relations director, but his connection to the organization dates to 2001, when he was a judo coach and athlete at the 16th Maccabiah Games. He held the same roles at the 2005 games, before serving as assistant head of the delegation for the 2009 and 2013 games.

In 2015, he was team manager of the American team at the European Maccabi Games in Berlin. The opening ceremony was held at the Waldbühne, which hosted the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany, and so Dan Kurtz entered the stadium as part of a cluster of athletes waving signs reading, “We are still here.”

“And in all of those experiences, my family’s never had the opportunity to come along,” Dan Kurtz said.

That is, until this summer, when the Kurtz family will descend on Israel for competition, sightseeing and community building. Olivia, whose 16th birthday will fall during the games, is particularly excited to engage with Jews from around the world.

Teams from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, France, Great Britain, Holland, Hungary, Israel, Italy, South Africa and Spain will compete for six days, in everything from soccer to softball to basketball. The next three days will be dedicated to touring Jerusalem.

The Kurtz family plans to visit Yad Vashem.

“Israel is, in fact, the representation that we’re still here and always will be. For them to not just feel it but to see it is really important to me,” Dan Kurtz said of his children.

Tessa Pearlstein, 15, of Bryn Mawr, will play volleyball at the games this summer. She’s relishing the opportunity to compete alongside fellow Jewish athletes. She said she’s normally the only Jew on her sports teams, and is often left explaining to her teammates what it means to keep kosher and what a Bat Mitzvah is.

She invited 12 of her softball teammates to her Bat Mitzvah, the first such event any of them had attended.

She was excited when she learned of her acceptance onto the volleyball team, especially considering her brother, Jared Pearlstein, played soccer and tennis at the JCC Maccabi Games when he was younger.

“He always really enjoyed it. He enjoyed meeting other people,” Tessa said of her brother.

In Israel, she’ll be joined by several more local athletes, including Samantha Adler (soccer) of Holland, Reeve Bernstein (soccer) of Newtown, Jake Block (soccer) of Washington Crossing, Blake Landow (softball) of Villanova, Julian Rosenfeld (soccer) of Doylestown and Ethan Sirken (soccer) of Solebury.; 215-832-0737


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