Growing up in a predominantly Jewish suburb of Maryland, Daniel Greyber was active in the Jewish community, but swimming was his main priority. In an effort to combine the two, Dr. Ricky Reff, who was President of the JCC of Greater Washington at the time, introduced Greyber to the magic of Maccabi. Greyber’s Maccabi career began at the 1986 The North American Maccabi Youth Games in Toronto and in 1988 he was approached to compete with the Maccabi USA at the 1988 Australian Maccabi Sports Carnival.
While Australia provided him with a taste for the Jewish sports world outside the United States, Greyber’s biggest desire was to compete in Israel for the World Maccabiah Games, and in 1993 his dream came true as he joined the U.S. delegation for the 14th World Maccabiah Games. These Games were a life-changing experience for Greyber whose competitive swimming career did not involve many Jewish athletes.
The opportunity to be part of the Open Swimming Team provided him with a Jewish community unlike anything he had experienced before – there was camaraderie that developed on his team. He can say with a lot of clarity that if it was not for his participation in these Games, he does not think he would be a Rabbi – the Games provided him with a “bridge between his life and core identity as a swimmer to his life and core identity as a Jewish person in the world.”
His most vivid memory of the 1993 Maccabiah Games is when he won the Gold Medal in the 100m Backstroke. When he reached back and touched first, his head shot out of the water and he looked around from the outdoor pool in Tel Aviv. The sun was setting on a perfect summer evening and he found the faces of his Israeli family watching in the crowd. He recalls an “incredible feeling of being at home,” in both the water as a competitive swimmer, and in Israel as a place where everyone was Jewish. In that moment he “understood that as a Jew, his life held a larger purpose to the Jewish people” and this impacted his decision to become a Rabbi.
As a veteran of the Games, and the Rabbi of the 19th World Maccabiah Games, Greyber finds that being the USA Team Rabbi is a convergence of “all the amazing things in his life” – he understands the power of this experience. His role as Rabbi is two-fold: to help the athletes frame the Games as something beyond a sports competition; and to help them think about their Jewish identities within the meaning of their lives.
Rabbi Greyber is encouraging people to sign up for the B’nai Mitzvah ceremony; registration will be open on April 1, 2017 on CareMonkey. The ceremony is a way for athletes and their families to find their connection to the Jewish People and to affirm and deepen their connection to the state of Israel. The purpose is not to see how many lines of Hebrew participants can memorize, but rather to give individuals an opportunity in a beautiful place to step forward and say, “I am here to celebrate my connection to the Jewish people and the Jewish religion.”
For more questions please contact Games Assistant Samantha Pulley at firstname.lastname@example.org or directly at 215.561.6900.