Two Vassar Student-Athletes to Compete in 2022 Maccabiah Games in Israel
Two Vassar student-athletes, Andrew Goldsmith ’22 and Jake Kaplan ’22, will compete in the 21st Maccabiah Games next summer in Israel. They will join more than 10,000 other Jewish athletes from 85 countries in the quadrennial event, the third largest international athletics competition in the world. Only the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup soccer championships have more competitors.
Goldsmith, a midfielder on Vassar’s men’s soccer team, was chosen for the USA squad following tryouts last June at Drew University in Madison, NJ. He was the only NCAA Division III player selected. “It was an honor being chosen for the team, and I’m looking forward to competing with all the Division I players from schools like Michigan and Stanford,” he said.
A psychological science major from Princeton, NJ, Goldsmith will finish his coursework at Vassar in December. He will be living in Chicago next year and will prepare for the competition by playing for a semi-pro soccer club there and taking part in fundraising for the games.
Goldsmith said being chosen to compete in the Maccabiah Games was gratifying for two reasons: Not only has soccer been a lifelong passion—“I started kicking a soccer ball around with my older brothers when I was 3 years old,” he said—but being part of the event is sort of a family tradition. “My uncle was a member of the Maccabiah Games soccer team, and I’ve always wanted to have that experience,” he said.
Like Goldsmith, Kaplan, a member of Vassar’s men’s volleyball team, also has a family connection with the Maccabiah Games: His mother competed with the USA Gymnastics team in the Junior Maccabiah Games in Toronto, Canada. “As a Jewish athlete, I’ve always dreamed of going to Israel to compete,” he said.
A psychological science major from Leesburg, VA, Kaplan started playing in youth volleyball leagues in northern Virginia when he was 9 years old, and he has been a key member of the Vassar team as an outside hitter for the past three seasons. Due to travel restrictions for many of the volleyball players during the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s tryouts for the USA team were virtual. Kaplan sent the coaches a highlight tape of some of his matches at Vassar and was notified in September that he’d made the team. “My game has really improved under Coach (Richard) Gary,” he said, “especially my mental focus and my defense.”
Kaplan was a member of the USA team that earned a Silver Medal at the Pan American Maccabiah Games in Santiago, Chile in 2015, but at 15 he was the youngest one on the team and didn’t play much. He said the coach of Team USA for the 2022 games had assured him he’d get plenty of playing time next summer.
Kaplan said the team would travel to Israel next July 5 and would have a week to train and practice together before the games begin. “I’m really excited about the whole experience,” he said. “After all the challenges everyone has been through with COVID, taking part in an international competition like this will be a great way to end my volleyball career.”
The Maccabiah Games, patterned after the Olympics, were first held in Tel Aviv in 1932 and featured competition among about 400 Jewish athletes from 18 countries. The games feature competition in all 28 Summer Olympic sports, as well as several other sports including karate, chess, and cricket. The games have four divisions: Open, Junior (athletes ages 15-18), Masters, and Paralympic. Noted participants who have also won medals at the Olympics or excelled in professional competition have included Mark Spitz (swimming), Mitch Gaylord and Kerri Strug (gymnastics), Brad Gilbert (tennis), and Bruce Fleisher (golf).