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Rhode Islander finds gold and so much more at Maccabiah World Games

I had the privilege of visiting Israel three times, but my trip this summer was strictly business; the goal was to bring home “the gold.”


I traveled to Jerusalem to play basketball for the U.S. team in the Maccabiah World Games, sometimes referred to as the Jewish Olympics. The feeling of walking across the stage during the opening ceremony at Teddy Kollek Stadium, in front of 10,000 people from 60 countries, was like no other. To top it off, my team was one of a select few to have a chance to meet the president of the United States, Joe Biden, who attended the Games while on a trip to the Middle East.

US President Joe Biden poses for a picture with US athletes competing in the Maccabiah Games (Mandel Ngan/AFP)


The Maccabiah World Games is a three-week journey for Jewish athletes of all

ages and backgrounds who come together to compete for gold every four years. Being able to play in Israel made it very special because nothing is like the Holy Land. I had never met my team mates before the trip, but after working out every day for two weeks, we were ready to go. We were all excited, but unsure of what to expect. After shaking off our early nervousness, my team played super well and was able to capture the gold medal by defeating Israel.


The friendships I formed during Maccabiah will last a lifetime. I had never before had the experience of being surrounded by so many athletes, let alone Jewish athletes. For once, it felt normal to have everyone know what my Hebrew-name necklace said or to see so many other athletes wearing a Jewish star. I only wish I had had more time to meet more athletes.


In the final days of the Games, we all got to exchange our sports swag. After getting shorts from the Australia team, shirts from Germany and Brazil, a sweatshirt from Mexico and a bracelet from Cuba, I was excited to bring a part of my experience and new friend ships home with me.


Hearing other athletes’ stories and experiences, whether it was about Judaism or sports, I learned to appreciate the things we have in common, as well as the differences in our lives. In addition to playing basketball, the United States delegation took part in Israel Connect. This six-day program focused on building a deeper connection to one’s Jewish identity, the American Jewish community, Israel and Diaspora Jewry.


During these full days of adventures, we explored Israel by floating in the Dead Sea, hiking Masada, visiting Yad V’Shem and going to the Shuk (outdoor market).

It was a great way to make connections with other athletes from around the United States.

I grew up in a strong Jewish community, attended the Jewish Community Day School and Temple Emanu-El, and became a Bat Mitzvah, so I was surprised that many of my teammates had not had these opportunities. It was exciting to be able to watch and support the rest of my team as they connected more with their Jewish identity. I got to watch them have their Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremonies overlooking the Jordan desert, and helped teach them some of the tunes to Shabbat songs.

Karlin and her teammates at the 2022 Maccabiah World Games on the podium


Playing in the second largest sporting event in the world, behind the Olympics, was a dream come true. I’m still smiling and looking back on all the memories I made and friendships I have formed. I can still clearly remember the final buzzer going off and having the whole team swarm onto the court, jumping on each other with total excitement that we had won!


I grew from this journey, and will always treasure the memories and be grateful for the support of my friends, family and community. A special thank you to both Temple Emanu-El and the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island, which made generous contributions that helped me participate in this unforgettable event.

 

Nina Karlin is a student athlete at Bryant University, currently pursuing a degree in entrepreneurship. After establishing her own business at the age of 9, she has worked for four start ups and small businesses honing her social media management skills. Karlin's aspiration is to one day present her innovative product on Shark Tank. Karlin was a part of the US women's basketball team that won a gold medal at the 2022 Maccabiah World Games in Israel.






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