In 1990, a year out of the former Soviet Union, an unknown swimmer living in Los Angeles, Lenny Krayzelburg took part in the Maccabi Youth Games in Detroit.
Today, at 33, Krayzelburg is a retired Olympian, winner of four Olympic medals.
Today, he is still a Maccabiah athlete at heart.
On Sunday he was a featured speaker at the opening ceremonies, above, held in Madison Square Garden, of the 2009 JCC Maccabi Games.
“He said he still has fond memories” of the Maccabi competition 19 years ago, says Lisa Itzkowitz, director of marketing for the 2009 Games, which were held for the first time in Westchester. They were hosted by the JCC of Mid-Westchester, the Rosenthal JCC of Northern Westchester and the JCC on the Hudson.
Some 1,400 athletes from more than a dozen states and three foreign countries — Canada, Venezuela and Israel — are taking part this week in 11 sports. The athletes marched in by teams, including the Bensonhurst JCC, center, and the Israeli delegation, below.
Competition at 20 venues across the county, punctuated by evening social activities and a Day of Caring and Sharing community service, ended Thursday with a closing party at the Westchester County Center.
More than 700 families hosted the visiting athletes.
“It’s a big deal for us,” Itzkowitz says.
More than 12,000 friends and family and members of the community packed into the main arena of the Garden for the opening ceremonies, which featured performances by Westchester cantors and Broadway singers and dancers, “Hatikvah” by Tovah Feldshuh, and emceeing by ESPN’s Chris Berman.
The night included a tribute to the 11 Israelis slain at the 1972 Munich Olympics — Anouk Spitzer, daughter of fencing coach Andre Spitzer, one of the terrorists’ victims, gave an inspirational speech.
“It was a true New York musical spectacular,” Itzkowitz says. “It was very moving.”