An ArtsFest veteran, girl hockey player, English soccer player and Hungarian hockey player are part of the Maccabi Games tapestry.
The JCC Maccabi Games & ArtsFest is a collection of stories. Each participant has a story to tell. Here are four tales, from participants in the Aug. 4-9 Maccabi Games & ArtsFest hosted by Detroit.
1. Benny Kirschner
Benny Kirshner will set a record at the Maccabi Games. It’s a record that could be tied, but never will be broken.
The 17-year-old from West Bloomfield will participate in ArtsFest for the maximum sixth time, all in acting/improvisation.
His first ArtsFest was in Detroit in 2014. His last ArtsFest will be in Detroit in 2019. In between, he went to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (2015), Stamford, Conn. (2016), Miami, Fla. (2017) and Orange County, Calif. (2018).
Detroit and Orange County are Kirshner’s favorite Maccabi Games venues.
“They were so prepared,” he said.
Performing and entertaining come naturally for Kirshner, who is a professional magician, ventriloquist and balloon artist and plans to show off his magic skills at the Maccabi Games talent show.
What doesn’t come naturally for Kirshner is having fun at overnight summer camps. But that’s never been a problem at the multiple-day Maccabi Games.
“I’ve always felt comfortable at the Maccabi Games,” he said. “I think it’s because there are so many people there with similar interests as me, and there is so much to do. I’d like to give back to the Maccabi Games. Maybe I can be an ArtsFest coach or something like that someday.”
Kirshner is a student at Aim High School in Farmington Hills.
2. Lucy Zate
Lucy Zate will join an elite club at the Maccabi Games. Morgan Leib is the only other member.
Zate will become only the second girl to play hockey for Detroit in the four years the sport has been a part of the Maccabi Games.
Is the 14-year-old forward from West Bloomfield ready for the challenge?
“Bring it on,” she said.
There’s no reason for the West Bloomfield High School freshman to be intimidated.
Zate is in her third year playing girls hockey with the prestigious HoneyBaked Hockey Club.
She’s competed in hockey against boys.
“I’m confident. I know my abilities. I’d say speed is my best asset,” she said.
Detroit will have two hockey teams in the Maccabi Games. Players were selected through tryouts.
Zate is on the White team, which is coached by Mark Berke.
This will be her first time competing in the Maccabi Games.
She said she learned about the Maccabi Games last year from friends who competed for Detroit in Orange County in baseball and volleyball. She thought playing hockey, her favorite sport, in Detroit would be a great experience.
“I can’t wait to meet kids from around the world and watch my friends compete,” she said.
Leib played hockey for Detroit last year in Orange County, helping Detroit reach the quarterfinals in the 11-team tournament.
3. Freddie Martin
Freddie Martin lives in a quiet, small residential village “with loads of open green land” on the outskirts of London, England. It’s a predominantly Jewish community.
The 14-year-old is a big soccer fan. Or, as he would say, football fan.
His favorite soccer team is Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur. His favorite soccer player is Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Son Heung-min.
Martin is a member of the Great Britain U16 boys soccer team that will play in the Maccabi Games.
“I can’t wait to get to Detroit, meet new people and hopefully bring gold back to the U.K.,” he said.
Martin competed in soccer in last year’s Maccabi Games in Orange County. His team lost 2-1 in the knockout round.
“The best part of that trip was our team defying expectations and making our managers proud,” he said. “We won three of our first four games.”
His parents are Andy Martin and Belinda Spiers. He has two older sisters, Georgia, 21, and Jaimie, 18.
His favorite food? Steak.
4. Jonathan Szanto
Hungarian hockey player Jonathan Szanto is looking forward to participating in his first Maccabi Games, “making new friends, seeing how American Jews live, exploring Detroit and experiencing U.S. hockey, which is known as the best in the world.”
The 14-year-old lives with his family in Budapest, the capital of Hungary and the city where most of the 100,000 Jews in the country reside.
“If you travel to Europe, you shouldn’t miss Budapest,” he said. “There are many historical sites to visit. There even are Turkish baths from the Turkish occupation of the city (in the 16th and 17th centuries).”
His father, Peter, is an entrepreneur, and his mother, Adrienn, works with the Chabad organization. He has an older brother and a younger sister.
Jonathan is a big fan of Washington Capitals hockey star Alexander Ovechkin, wiener schnitzel, steak, traveling and mathematics. He’s played in hockey tournaments in Canada, Austria and Germany with his Hungarian team.
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