Athletes abuzz in S.F. and its go, go, go

After living with his San Francisco host family for just a few days, 15-year-old Sam Ravetz of New York was quick to notice that many locals ditch their cars in favor of, well, sports.

Watching people bike, run or rollerblade was something that Ravetz — a first-timer to San Francisco — wasn’t used to seeing.

“People actually use the bike lanes here,” he marveled. “It’s much different from New York.”

Ravetz, a basketball player from the New York City 92nd Street Y delegation, is one of nearly 1,200 visiting athletes that descended upon San Francisco this week for the JCC Maccabi Games.

Midway through the weeklong competition, tennis games were in full swing, baseball players took to the diamonds, and flag football teams tore up and down the field.

And all under a clear sky, without a trace of San Francisco’s signature fog.

Still, “It’s windy,” said 16-year-old Lauren Davis, a St. Louis tennis player who hit the fuzz at Golden Gate Park. “I had to adjust my game just a little because of it.”

Davis and 16-year-old teammate Melissa Shultz, who play on the same high school tennis team back home, had already visited the outside of the house used for the Disney Channel hit “That’s So Raven,” and they were looking forward to walking the Golden Gate Bridge during host family night Aug. 4.

A highlight of the Games’ hub at the University of San Francisco was Hang Time, a gigantic space where the athletes could kick back, make freshly squeezed orange juice, munch popcorn and play a rousing game of “Jewpardy.”

“It’s a big party,” said volleyball player Zoe Morgan-Weinman, 13, of San Francisco. “There are video games, lots of good snacks and you can do whatever you want.”

As of j.’s deadline, medals had been handed out in only a few individual sports, such as dance and track and field. Hardware for the rest of the individual and team sports — including golf, soccer, bowling and table tennis — were to be awarded Aug. 6, the last day of competition.

The JCC of San Francisco, which fielded the Bay Area’s largest contingent at 316, cleaned up in several track and field events and dance categories:

San Francisco’s Camilla Bykhovsky pocketed a pair of gold medals in the girls’ 14-and-under 2,000-meter and the 4×400 delegation relay with teammates Mikela Waldman and Cienna Gray.

Almog Navon, of Holon, Israel, competed as a member of the S.F. delegation, winning gold in the girls’ 16-and-under 4×400 mixed relay, and two silver medals for the girls’ 16-and-under 2,000 and girls’ 16-and-under 3,000.

And Sarah Williams, from the Addison-Penzak JCC in Silicon Valley, won gold in the girls’ 14-and-under 400 and 4×400 mixed relay, and the girls’ 16-and-under 100.

On the boys’ side, San Francisco’s Sam Koch and teammates Paul Levinson-Muth, Zach Migdail and Mia O’Reilly took the gold in the 14-and-under 4×800 delegation relay.

The JCCSF dance squad’s Zoe Donnenfield, Evan Kharrazi and Sabrina Perell took top honors for their ballet performance, as did Ohad Kalmy, who came to the Games all the way from Holon, Israel. Sivan Albo, Koral Ben Ezra and Kalmy earned gold for their jazz dance.

Four other members of the S.F. dance team each earned bronze medals.

For an updated list of JCC Maccabi Games medal winners, visit


Where are the Peninsula, East Bay competitors?

Though the competition is practically in their backyard, not all Bay Area JCCs sent athletes to this week’s JCC Maccabi Games in San Francisco.

The Oshman Family JCC, for instance, sent none.

“We wanted to give our kids the experience of going to other places in the country,” said Mimi Sells, director of communications for the Oshman Family JCC. Instead, 22 teens from the Palo Alto–based JCC will go to the San Antonio JCC Maccabi Games, which are slated to begin Sunday, Aug. 9, in Texas.

Additionally, there will be JCC Maccabi Games in Westchester County, N.Y., from Aug. 16 to 21.

The Contra Costa JCC in Walnut Creek sent a basketball team of eight boys — four from Contra Costa County and four from Berkeley — to the S.F. Maccabi Games.

Why not more athletes? Because the Contra Costa JCC was allocated just eight slots.

“There’s much more demand [for spots in the competition] than we have supply,” explained Aaron Selkow, vice president of the JCC Association’s Maccabi Experience. “Just about every participating JCC would like more spaces than we’re able to give.”

Selkow and his staff work with the host cities to determine how many teens each Games can accommodate. That figure, along with the size of each JCC that wants to participate, is used to determine how many athletes each JCC is allowed to send to the games.

“If every JCC got exactly what it wanted, we wouldn’t have enough beds,” Selkow said.

— stacey palevsky