The 1992 Jewish Community Centers' North American Maccabi Youth Games ended yesterday, as host city Baltimore passed the torch to 1994 host city Cleveland before a capacity crowd of 4,500 at UMBC Stadium.
More than 2,600 athletes participated in the week's events, but four participants from the Baltimore delegation had the opportunity to deliver a special message to the crowd during the closing ceremonies.
Each participant from the Baltimore delegation was required to write an essay on what it means to be a participant in the Maccabi Games. Eric Goren, Melanie Blumenthal, Stefanie Zemlak and Robert Schwartz were chosen by the Maccabi Games staff to read their essays.
About two months ago, the JCC told Goren that he had been chosen to read his essay.
"I didn't believe it because I didn't think my essay was good enough," said the 14-year-old freshman at Beth Tfiloh School.
"I was really thrilled to see Jewish kids all over the world and be able to have a competition like this in our own city," said Goren, who competed in four track and field events and was a member of the bronze medal-winning 4 x 400-meter relay team.
Zemlak, a freshman at Owings Mills High School, said she was "shocked" when she found out she was going to read her essay. "I wrote it in five minutes and I never thought I would win," she said.
Zemlak, who played singles and doubles tennis in the 13-14 division, said she wanted people to remember that "it doesn't matter whether you won or lost, just that you had a good time" during the week of competition.
"We all came together to compete in athletic events, but it's more than that -- it's to bring the community together," said Blumenthal, a Park School sophomore who competed in track and field.
Schwartz, a junior at Franklin High School, wrote his essay on the effect of the 1972 Olympic Games on the Jewish people, so everyone "remembers it happened so it can't happen again."
Eleven Israelis were slain by Arab terrorists at the 1972 Games in Munich, Germany.
"The 1972 Games did end on a high note as [U.S. swimmer] Mark Spitz, a Jewish athlete, won six gold medals," Schwartz said in his speech. "The 1972 Games should not be forgotten."
"This week you dedicated yourself to these 11 Israeli heroes," said Michael Hettleman, who led a candle-lighting tribute to the Israelis who died in Munich. "We must live for today and we must build for tomorrow."