Today we feature Zak Elfenbein, two time Maccabi USA alum at the 2007 Pan American Maccabi Games and the 2009 World Maccabiah Games. Zak will be the Assistant Coach for the Juniors Boys’ Basketball Team at the upcoming 2015 European Maccabi Games! Read below to learn more about Zak’s experiences with Maccabi USA and his transition to coaching.
A deep sense of community, lifelong relationships and paying it forward are the first things that come to Zak Elfenbein’s mind when someone mentions Maccabi USA.
An alum of the 2007 Pan American Maccabi Games and the 2009 Maccabiah Games, Zak originally became involved with the organization through an introduction to Brian Schiff (Shifty), a Basketball Coach for Maccabi USA who has coached at seven different Games. They immediately clicked; Zak played for him at the 2007 Pan American Maccabi Games and is set to be the Assistant Coach for Brian Schiff’s Juniors Boys’ Basketball Team at the upcoming European Maccabi Games in Berlin!
Zak’s participation at the 2007 Pan American Maccabi Games was in question. “I was going through a rough time in my personal life, and Shifty was great to me,” says Zak. “He became more than a coach to me. I think of him now as my mentor.” Zak sees this relationship as key to his development as a young Jewish man and just as key in allowing him to stay involved with Judaism through sports. “I’m a really big believer in paying it forward,” he said. “Coaching in Berlin will allow me to do for young Jewish athletes what coaches like Shifty did for me. Coaching is all about giving back.”
Travelling to Berlin for the European Maccabi Games is very special in Zak’s mind. “It’s a story of triumph,” exclaims Zak. “Here we are, in a country that experienced anti-Semitism, and we are coming back in full force and competing and going to places and stadiums that we weren’t allowed to go to in the past.” Zak is also looking forward to reuniting with old teammates from the 2009 Maccabiah Games, Travis Warech and Jeremiah Kreisberg, who will be athletes on the Open Men’s Basketball Team at the European Maccabi Games.
Prior to accepting his new job as the Assistant Athletic Director at the Marcus JCC in Atlanta, Georgia, Zak was the Graduate Assistant for the Men’s Basketball Team at the University of Florida. When Billy Donovan, the Head Coach at Florida, accepted an offer to be the Head Coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder of the NBA, Zak was given opportunity to work in professional basketball. However, working in the NBA would have meant that Zak could not coach at the European Maccabi Games. He chose the European Maccabi Games. “In my perspective, Maccabi USA is bigger than the NBA,” remarks Zak. “I am able to give back and coach for my country on a team that I played on, and the head coach is my mentor. You can’t really beat that.”
Click HERE to see Zak’s Team’s Schedule & Results at the European Maccabi Games! Don’t forget to use #TeamUSA and # EMG2015 while we are at the Games!