Six years ago, at my son’s bar mitzvah, Ziv delivered a d’var Torah that has never left my mind. He shared aloud with all 300 attendees that, on that day, as a newly recognized adult in the community, he was re-committing to his two religions: Judaism and Hockeyism.

Anyone who knew him then understood that the centering of competitive hockey in his life was of equal importance as his commitment to Judaism. In fact, living a life with a high level of dedication toward his practice, his teammates, his rituals, his diet, his mindfulness and joy reminded me, in their essence, of many forms and styles of Jewish rituals and practices many in our community live by. His tenacity, perseverance, grit and ability to problem-solve perhaps all began when he was a student at JCDS. He learned to channel these versatile Habits of Mind and Heart into his passion.

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His journey throughout the years, including a dedication on the part of his parents to shlep to games in Montreal, Michigan, St. Louis and Notre Dame, as well as to early morning practices, has resulted in an exciting outcome: Ziv has been invited to join Team USA’s ice hockey team at this summer’s Maccabi Games in Israel (read the article here). Founded by Yosef Yekutiali in the early 1930s, the Maccabi Games were born out of his nationalistic vision for a parallel track to the Olympic Games for elite Jewish athletes. This year, the Maccabi Games will welcome delegates from 80 countries from around the world, furthering Max Nordau’s conception of “muscular Judaism,” his early-20th-century image of the new, physically strong and vibrant Jew.

I am also very proud to share that Shai Saarony (’20) will be playing U16 Futsal in the Maccabi Games as well!

For my husband, David, and me, nurturing and encouraging a positive Jewish identity alongside our children’s passion for their sports has been of paramount importance. It hasn’t always been easy, and there had to be compromises along the way. But for our family, and, I believe, many in our JCDS community, the ability to recognize, nurture and cherish all the varied aspects of our children’s personalities, identities and dreams is a goal we all value.

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Shira Deener is head of school at JCDS.

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