Guest blog written by one of our “on-the-ground” reporters and bloggers, Logan Schiciano.

As the 15th European Maccabi Games came to a close on Tuesday, Aug. 6, the nine-day experience in Budapest, Hungary was very special for Sophie Gerber of the Juniors Girls’ basketball team. Sophie, who is from Scottsdale, AZ, had the chance to play in front of two of her grandparents, both of whom were born and raised and still live in Hungary.

Sophie’s grandmother, Hervai Ferencnè grew up in Debrecen, which is located about 120 miles east of Budapest. This is the same city, her grandfather Hervai Ferenc, has lived all his life. 

Both grandparents watched the Juniors Girls’ basketball game against Israel on Sunday, Aug. 4. After the contest, in which Sophie recorded seven points, Ferencnè had to hold back tears when the significance of the moment sunk-in. “I don’t get to see my grandkids very often, so it was very exciting,” she said by way of Maria Gerber, Sophie’s mom, who was translating for her parents. 

While Ferencnè had been to the United States a couple years ago to watch Sophie play, these Games were the first for Sophie’s grandfather. “I really enjoyed watching her. She’s very quick on the court and her skills are very impressive,” he said. 

Sophie was also appreciative of the opportunity she had to showcase her talent on the court. “It’s cool to see them come watch me play,” she said. “I don’t get this experience very often. I would’ve liked to play better but they got to see me score the ball and see the team win.” 

Head Coach Sherry Levin recalled the initial conversation she had with Sophie: “When she first told me that she had family in Hungary and that they hadn’t seen her play for a long time, I teared up.” She was also in full support of the occasion. “To have the families able to share in that joy of playing is what Maccabi is all about,” Levin said. 

Sophie and her teammates would go on to win the Gold Metal in the Juniors Girls’ Basketball tournament, defeating Israel in the finals, 84-32.

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