Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

MEN’S TENNIS | Hoyas Find Competition, Community at Maccabi Games

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Making for an eventful winter break, two Georgetown University students graced the tennis courts at the 2023 Pan American Maccabi Games, the fifteenth iteration of the Jewish athletic competition. 

Held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, from Dec. 27 to Jan. 5, the event brought together thousands of Jewish athletes from dozens of countries. Athletes participated in sports ranging from the traditional basketball, soccer and swimming to the less typical pickleball, futsal and the Maccabi Man/Woman competition — a combination of several ultra-endurance events. Within each sport, there are four tiers: U16, U18, open and masters.

The open tennis team was composed of 11 members, including two students from Georgetown: Jacob Callahan (SFS ’26) and Akira Morgenstern (CAS ’25).

Callahan plays on the Georgetown club tennis team on campus and was thrilled to play in this year’s games.

“It was something I was really, really excited to do because I had heard it was amazing from people who had gone and played other sports at the Maccabi Games,” Callahan told The Hoya.

Morgenstern, a member of Georgetown’s varsity team, has competed in the Maccabiah Games in the past — the 2022 games in Israel — and was motivated to return.

“I played in the open division, and it was genuinely like one of the best experiences of my life, being in Israel surrounded by a bunch of Jews and having the chance to play tennis,” Morgenstern told The Hoya.

The competition was played on red clay courts, which are fairly uncommon in the United States and proved to be an exciting challenge for Callahan. 

“The clay was a big adjustment for me, and I think for the rest of the U.S.A. team as well,” Callahan said. “There’s not a lot of clay courts, especially red clay courts in America, so just getting used to how the ball bounces, how to move was a new experience.”

It was also Morgenstern’s first time playing on red clay.

Despite the novelty of the courts, both Morgenstern and Callahan put together excellents runs. Morgenstern took home the silver medal in doubles in an electric final.

“It was really cool getting to play in the finals, had a big crowd, live streamed to everyone who was playing in the Maccabi Games across all sports, so a little bit of pressure,” Morgenstern said. “It was just like an incredible experience, and I just tried to savor it as much as possible.” 

Maccabi Games | Akira Morgenstern (CAS ’25) serves in the doubles final.

In the singles draw, Callahan advanced to the second round before falling to eventual gold medalist Arturo Kam of Mexico.

Aside from an opening ceremony speech by Argentine President Javier Milei, who reiterated his support for the Maccabi Games, a highlight of the competition for Callahan was a joint Shabbat service among all delegations.

“It was super cool to see all the different — like everyone’s Jewish, but from all these different countries, there’s all these slightly different traditions,” Callahan said. “And the service was led by an Argentine rabbi, so got a lot of insight into Argentine Judaism and how it’s similar and different from what I’m used to.”

Despite only spending one day together prior to the tournament start, Callahan said team camaraderie quickly swelled among the American players.

“By the second day — so we had one day of practice and then, the second day of competition started — it felt like we had already known each other forever. And by the end of the week, we had really just bonded a lot and become very close,” Callahan said.

Many even had mutual connections via the tennis world.

“Jewish geography and tennis geography, so everyone did have some mutual acquaintances or friends with everyone since tennis and Judaism are both kind of small worlds,” Callahan added.

In total, the American delegation of about 700 athletes finished second in the medal race with 124 total, falling behind only that of the host Argentina squad.

In the future, Morgenstern said he would love the opportunity to travel to and play in another Maccabi Games.

“Every time I play, it’s just such an awesome experience,” Morgenstern said. “It’s just like being around that community and then also being in a foreign country, whether it’s Israel or a South American or Central American country. It’s just such a unique experience.

“I would recommend it to anyone who’s Jewish and can somewhat play a sport.”

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    Marilyn KirschnerJan 19, 2024 at 7:42 pm

    Fantastic

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