“Thank you from the bottom of my heart” David Blatt, Maccabi Tel Aviv visit Jewish Sports Museum

Jan 24, 2023 | Holyland Hoops

This morning, The Iris Smith World Jewish Sports Museum at Kfar Maccabiah hosted the Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball team for an intimate tour of the Museum. The event was attended not only by Maccabi’s current players, coaches and staff, but also by former players Tal Brody, Miki Berkovich, Shuki Schwartz and Shmulik Zsyman. Distinguished members of the Maccabi World Union, including Chairman Amir Peled and CEO Amir Gissin, were also in attendance.

The Museum, which opened in 2022, presents to visitors the unique and exciting story of Jewish, Zionist and Israeli sports from the 19th century until today. The event gave Maccabi’s players the opportunity to learn a little about that history, as well as a chance to mingle with prominent athletes who helped to create that history.

Jewish Sports Museum – Photo Credit: Ben Pask

“The most important thing that we would like to share with you, if there is one thing that we would like you to remember, is that you’re really part of something bigger – sports that connect people,” Gissin told the Maccabi players prior to taking them on a tour of the Museum. “Obviously, when you hear the Jewish history of sports, there are many difficult moments that the Jewish people went through. But I think the bottom line that we already can say is that sports connect people – it goes beyond religion – and we’re all a part of one big family. I think that when you hear the story of 120 years, I think you’ll feel more connected to it.”

“It was such an honor to come here and learn about the Maccabi movement,” Maccabi captain John DiBartolomeo said of the visit. “You know, I’d heard about the Maccabi Games growing up as a kid in the States. I didn’t have the pleasure of participating – a little regret of mine – but it’s funny, now I’m 31 coming back here to the Maccabi movement and playing arguably for the biggest Maccabi team in the world. It’s special and it’s funny how life works like that.”

Tal Brody and Wade Baldwin – Photo Credit: Ben Pask

The most significant display in the Museum from a club perspective is the celebration of Maccabi’s maiden European Championship in 1977, which of course Brody and Berkovich helped bring home after defeating Mobilgirgi Varese 78-77 in the final in Belgrade.

“It’s not the original,” Gissin said of the replica, “But when you have Tal [Brody] and Miki [Berkovich] standing here, you feel as if it’s the original!”

John Dibartolomeo- Photo Credit: Ben Pask

“Obviously it’s always fun to see them and to see them holding the cup – I made a joke that it’s the only museum where the people on the walls are talking to you,” DiBartolomeo said. “They inspire us. They’ve laid such a framework for what Maccabi is and what we want to be. Obviously, they set high goals with the success that they had and we want to try to make them proud.”

At the end of the tour, legendary Maccabi Tel Aviv coach and current Chairman of the Professional Committee, David Blatt, gave a presentation to the players on what it takes to build a successful and sustainable team.

David Blatt – Photo Credit: Ben Pask

“This is a very special opportunity for all of our organization to share in the history of the Maccabi movement, which is of course very closely tied in with our team and what we’re doing,” legendary Maccabi Tel Aviv coach and current Chairman of the Professional Committee, David Blatt, said to the attendees during his presentation on what it takes to build a successful and sustainable team at the end of the tour.

“I just want to say thank you so much from the bottom of my heart, as someone that came from the Maccabi movement, made a life here and had children here, I have family here. I’m forever blessed and appreciative what this organization has done for me and this club that you’re all a part of now has done for me and for us.”

Miki Berkowitz and Oded Katash – Photo Credit: Ben Pask

“It was very inspiring to listen to the stories,” DiBartolomeo reflected. “Everyone’s story is different and how they’re all connected and how everyone feels a part of the Maccabi movement and a part of something bigger. I think it speaks to how well the movement has worked throughout the years and what it does now and how important it is for Jewish athletes everywhere.”

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