By Courtney Wisostsky
Originally featured in the summer 2007 issue of JCC Circle.
Jessica and Andy’s story underlines that the JCC Maccabi Games are about much more than sports. The Games have always been a social and cultural event too, and by infusing Jewish values into the programming, the Games send athletes home with a stronger sense of Jewish identity. Then there’s the opportunity to meet Jewish athletes and coaches from around the world, and who knows where that can lead? JCC Maccabi Games athletes have gone on to play sports at the local, national, and international level, as well as on college and professional teams. Perhaps more importantly, many participants have remained involved in the Jewish community as a result of their feeling a powerful sense of connection through the Games. And, of course, there are those all-important personal connections….
Ilyse Resnick’s love story began when she started playing softball for the Philadelphia delegation in the 1998 JCC Maccabi Games in Detroit. She had so much fun that she continued to play for the next two years—Cherry Hill, New Jersey in 1999 and Boca Raton, Florida in 2000. As she got older, Ilyse came home each summer from college, where she played soccer and softball, to help her dad coach the Philadelphia JCC team. She just couldn’t give up those JCC Maccabi Games! It was when Ilyse played soccer for the 2005 U.S. women’s team at the Maccabiah Games in Israel that she met Marcus, the coach of the Australian women’s team. Both their respective teams went out for the evening, and the two ended up talking most of the night. “The rest of our time in Israel was divided between playing soccer and trying to see more of each other,” Ilyse says. “Even though we were both in our twenties, it felt like a first crush.” After traveling between Europe, the United States, and Australia to visit one another, Ilyse made the move to Australia last year. “We have a puppy that’s about one year old. We also both play for the same soccer club here and everything is really great!” she says. While the couple is still deciding whether to settle permanently in the U.S. or Australia, the one thing for sure is that they may never have found each other had it not been for Ilyse’s JCC Maccabi Games experience.
It took several years for Gennifer and Jarrod Roth’s JCC Maccabi Games romance to flourish. The two little words “she is” have special significance for this happy couple. The teens met as athletes at the 1992 Games in Baltimore where they played on a co-ed volleyball team, and after a brief fling, they broke up. But Gennifer recalls that over the next few years, she thought about Jarrod often; he was her “biggest crush.” Six years later, Gennifer’s dad Ken was organizing the volleyball tournament for the Games in Detroit, while she coached the girl’s team. When one of the venue directors cancelled at the last minute, Gennifer facetiously suggested that Ken contact Jarrod as a replacement. Jarrod, who was busy preparing for a move to California, was in the midst of politely declining when Ken mentioned that Gennifer would be there. “She is?” Jarrod responded, and quickly agreed to free up some time to help out.
Gennifer and Jarrod married in 2002 and have two-year-old twin sons. At 14 years old, Gennifer wanted nothing to do with the JCC Maccabi Games. Her dad pushed her into participating that summer, and it changed her life forever. Gennifer has been involved with the Games for the past 16 years and says that the power of relationships and connections made through the Games should not be underestimated. After all, she met the love of her life at the JCC Maccabi Games. “The Games are in my heart forever,” she says.