by Robin B. Zeiger
Tzuf Levy, 17, Maccabi athlete, has been to America twice before. In spite of this, he could not say enough good things about his trip to Richmond. The Emek Hefer athletes arrived in Richmond a week before the rest of the Macabee delegation from out of town. Thus, the teens were treated to some very special attention from their host city. They visited Washington, King's Dominion and Camp Hilbert. They participated in a community teen sleep-over at the JCC. They also went on a tour of Richmond, learning important history of the city. And of course, there was the obligatory trip to Target. There is no comparison place of shopping in Emek Hefer. In fact, the biggest store in Israel is IKEA; a store worth a day's outing here.
Tzuf stayed at the Hecht's house. The Hecht and Levy family have forged a strong connection after his sister's former trip to Richmond. Tzuf's family has reciprocated on the Hecht's trip to Israel, inviting them to stay at the Levy household.
When Tzuf was asked what most impressed him about his trip, he mentioned three experiences. He enjoyed his trip to the Richmond Squirrels. He had never seen a baseball game before. In our part of the world, soccer is the passion. Tzuf enjoyed watching how it was played an d learning the rules. He also enjoyed his trip to Camp Hilbert for Israel Day. He was impressed with how much the counselors and staff knew about Israel.
The number experience for Tzuf though was the opening ceremony of Maccabi. To him, it war very powerful. He was especially moved by the yearly dedication to the memory of the Munich athletes. And he was proud to be part of this important moment.
Richmond was not just a passing moment in a busy teen's life. Rather, Tzuf tells me he keeps in touch with about 20 Richmond teens via Facebook and e-mail as a result of his trip. He also mentioned with pride that at almost 17, he was one of the oldest athletes. He enjoyed this role and used the opportunity to talk to and educate many younger teens about Israel and about his life.
Most of all, Tzuf raved about the warmth that he experienced in Richmond from the entire community. The week before Maccabi offered a time of relaxation and a time to become connected to the teens of our sister region. Tzuf concluded with one touching thought. "Being in Richmond was like living in Disneyworld for two weeks." For this Richmond can feel proud!
Richmond hosted the JCC Maccabi Games this year. Over 800 youth Jewish youth participated, including 13 from Emek Hefer, Richmond's Jewish Agency Partnership 2000 Region in Israel. In order to bring a snapshot of our Partnership, we are presenting some reflections from teens and parents on both sides of the ocean.