Bon voyage to Maccabi’s young pioneers

January 21, 2011 by David Weiner-Maccabi NSW
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Maccabi can be such an easy sell sometimes.

Ask Ashleigh Werner, who is one of eight budding school-leavers who left Australia bound for Israel this week to begin a six-month adventure on the inaugural Maccabi Australia Incorporated Leadership program (MAIL).

“The reason I’m looking forward to this so much was because I had such a great time at Maccabiah. I know it’s not the same, but if I’m with friends, and if I want to do something with sport for the rest of my life, I might as well start here,” she enthused.

“From Israel I’ll go to Europe, and then to Canada, to visit some friends I actually made ON Maccabiah.”

Does Maccabi open up some doors, or what?

“Definitely,” Manthy Gentin, another Mail participant, added. “Maccabi has given us a big opportunity.”

Maccbai’s program aims to provide a chance for school-leavers who might not have gone to Israel with a youth movement to spend their gap-year productively, on a program in Israel. They will train in their sport of choice, earn coaching qualifications, study, live, travel and will also be aligned with the AUJS Aviv group to ensure their experience is as broad and sociable as possible.

They are pioneers, no doubt. It is a fledgling program, but success will see this project grow and evolve.

“I hope that your program’s success will be the building block for the 2012 program,” Danny Hochberg, who spearheaded the entire project, said at a farewell at his home on Sunday.

“We want to add more countries, and eventually, for the program to become available to all in the Maccabi World Union family.

“I hope you will receive much satisfaction as the founding participants, while you watch the program become a world even over the next few years.”

Michael Puterflam, who “has always been heavily involved with Maccabi” through junior football, tennis, swimming and junior carnival, knew the Maccabi program was made for him.

“Because I’m a very sport associated guy; no other program had these components,” he said.

“We’re given an opportunity to live by ourselves, live in apartments, experience the culture, interact with other people at Wingate (the Israeli equivalent of the AIS).

“What do I want to get from this program? I want to learn, I want to grow, I want to become an individual, and I want to meet people.”

At one stage, Danny had to turn to the community when costs rose due to lower numbers – and the response was inspirational. $65,000 was raised in a week. The bigger picture for this program was not lost on anyone: regeneration of the Maccabi movement, and the opportunity for more kids to benefit from a program in Israel.

Maccabi Australia’s Tom Goldman OAM added at the farewell: “You are pioneering a program not only for Maccabi Australia but for the Maccabi World Union.

We need help from the younger generation – and you are the generation that is going to come forward and will lead Maccabi in the future.”

And the participants know it.

Manthy is already heavily entrenched in the netball club, but says “I’ve already been coaching, but I’m definitely going to return to the club after the program and I’ll have skills and qualifications I’ll be able to bring back. I’m really excited”.

Another traveller, Eli Port, is a man with a plan. Eli, one of the poster boys for the Maccabi Hakoah YDL system as the first graduate from the youth side into senior football, dreams of returning with his football coaching license and guiding a Maccabi team through to the top level.

“I want to come back and coach,” Eli asserted. “I’ve been working for a year to go on this program. I’ve wanted to do the coaching program and see the Israeli style. When I get back I want to coach a young side through.

“The kids (in YDL) are going to be amazing and I want to be able to coach them.”

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