A swimmer for most of her life, Sarah Solomon’s first experience with Maccabi USA came in Berlin at the 2015 European Maccabi Games, where she won a whopping seven medals, three gold, three silver and one bronze. Despite her resounding success, Sarah’s fondest memories include “breaking the record for the largest Kabbalat Shabbat and building relationships with Jews from all around the world.”
Relationships are the main reason Sarah became involved with Maccabi USA in the first place. Prior to the European Maccabi Games, Sarah attended three JCC Maccabi Games, where she met her best friend, Abby Shapiro. “Honestly, I did not initially enjoy my first JCC Games,” recalls Sarah. “Kids that age can be cruel bullies. Noticing I was having a difficult time, Abby, who was great at making friends, hung out with me instead of the rest of the team, and we became inseparable.” Sarah and Abby were introduced to the European Maccabi Games during the 2014 JCC Games. They filled out applications, were accepted, and were ready and excited for the trip of a lifetime together.
Unfortunately, in the spring before the Games in Berlin, Abby was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer. Bedridden and unable to swim, Abby had no choice but to drop from the team. In her honor, all 13 members of Maccabi USA’s Swim Team in Berlin drew Abby’s initials on their shoulders with sharpies, as pictured below. “While we were in Berlin, Abby was following the results and constantly texting me to congratulate me on my swims,” Sarah said.
One month after Team USA’s return from Germany, Abby passed away from her battle with cancer; her funeral was attended by more than 600 people. For Sarah, swimming and Maccabi USA took on a deeper meaning. “I was unsure if I wanted to go to the Pan American Maccabi Games,” admits Sarah. “Ultimately, I decided to go and represent Abby Shapiro, an amazing swimmer and an even better friend.”
In just about three weeks, Sarah and the rest of Team USA will depart for the Pan American Maccabi Games, and she is excited. “I can’t wait to make more great relationships as I did in the European Maccabi Games,” remarks Sarah. “I know I will enjoy it just as much, but I am excited for the experience to be new in and of itself!”