In 2001 Dan Kurtz boarded a plane for his first trip to Israel for the 16th Maccabiah Games as both an athlete and coach in the sport of Judo. The 16th Games were unique because they were run at the height of the Second Intifada. “The very experience of being in Israel during that time was incredible since the only tourism taking place was the Maccabiah Games,” Dan recalled.
The Maccabiah Games were a transformative experience for him, leading him to switch professions from art conservation to education; he wanted to make a greater impact on the world in a way the Maccabiah Games made an impact on him. Dan had the opportunity to go back to Israel as the USA Assistant Team Manager for the 2013 Maccabiah Games and the USA Team Manager for the 2015 European Games in Berlin, Germany. While in Berlin, Dan had another transformational moment of wanting to become more involved in organizations that served Jews and preserving the notion of “Us [Jews] still being here.”
When the Alumni Relations Director position became available, Dan’s dreams became a reality. He was recently hired as the Alumni Relations Director and sees his new position as a way to provide transformations for past participants since Maccabi USA was so transformational for him.
Dan hopes to re-engage alumni by providing them with opportunities to share their stories in schools or synagogues. Other ideas are to create a Maccabi USA Smartphone App with a specific alumni feature, notifying them of local events in their area and spotlighting them in the monthly e-newsletters. The Alumni Association is working to connect established alumni with their college senior counterparts by creating job opportunities through mentorships. The Association is also working on a major research project to identify the Maccabi USA impact on its participants, both quantitatively and qualitatively.
The Alumni Association programming is focused around regional events in cities densely populated with alumni and affinity groups (i.e. Masters Soccer). Events will highlight the movie “On the Map”, starring Maccabiah Games gold medalist Tal Brody and featuring the miraculous win of the 1977 Maccabi Tel Aviv Basketball Team against four-time defending European Champions, Soviet Basketball Team CSKA, which put Israel firmly on the map. The movie will be shown at the Maccabi USA Annual Conference in December and during the 2017 “NBA All Star Weekend” in New Orleans, LA, featuring Basketball Hall of Fame San Antonio Spurs Coach Nancy Lieberman and Tal Brody. The Association is also planning to screen the film in other cities. Additionally, the Association hopes to join with Maccabi Young Leadership (MYL) in Philadelphia as well as MYL chapters in other alumni-based cities to host happy hours, Shabbat dinners, and mentoring workshops.