Neil Schechter has traveled to Israel frequently but his recent trip held a special meaning.
Schechter, who works with Pikesville-based Klein Enterprises, went to Israel for the recent Maccabiah Games, where he won a gold medal in the men’s masters division in tennis (doubles).
The Severna Park resident (above, left) combined with Scott Kalb from Connecticut, a player he met at tryouts in Florida, and the pairing turned out to be a good one. They played seven matches and made it to the finals, where he and Kalb defeated an Argentine team, 8-1. The scoring was done in a pro-set format.
“It was challenging,” Schecter said. “It was an accomplishment to get a medal but to get a gold was very special.”
It also proved to be rather tough, given the weather in Israel during the Games, which took place from July 4-17. Schechter said they often were forced to play in 100 degrees and humidity. He plays tennis about three or four times a week, and in the months leading up to the Games, he obtained a cross-trainer due to concerns about the weather.
“You really had to plan to hydrate the night before and drink on the court,” Schechter said.
The opening to the Games caught Schechter’s attention, with thousands of athletes in attendance at the ceremonies in Jerusalem. Schechter said since these were the 20th Games, the experience was very moving, especially as organizers tied the event to the historical persecution of Jews.
Schechter also felt the experience was reminiscent of one he had in Berlin two years ago when he won a silver medal in singles in the European Games. He met former athletes who were competing in the early 1930s in Berlin during the beginning of the Nazi reign of terror.
But coming to Israel was a whole different ball game.
“I love to play tennis, and I love Israel, so combining the two is like a dream coming true,” he said. “It was a great opportunity….”
As for that gold medal he won, it now sits quietly on his desk at work.
“I’m still amazed,” Schechter said. “I’m very proud of the accomplishment.”
In an interesting coincidence, Schechter isn’t the only member of Arnold’s Temple Beth Shalom to win a medal at the Maccabiah Games. Ronni Binstock, a junior at Severna Park High School this fall, also excelled at the Games.
Binstock, a gymnast, won three silver and two bronze medals and loved getting a chance to compete internationally and to see Israel.
“It was amazing,” she said. “Everything looks like a picture there. Everything is so beautiful …it’s like nothing else.”
The 16-year-old Binstock, who also won five gold medals in the Pan American Games two years ago, earned silver this time in the all-around competition, balance beam and team. She also took home bronze in the floor and vault competitions.
Binstock and the rest of the gymnasts had the chance to see various spots in Israel at the beginning of their visit.
“I really enjoyed the Dead Sea and Masada,” Binstock said. “It was the first week, so we didn’t really know our team but we bonded.”
She is hoping to obtain a college scholarship and trains four hours a day, five days a week. Binstock has already visited a few schools with more on the way, but now she can add competing on an international level to her applications.
“It meant so much to me just to be able to compete for the United States on some type of level,” she said. “I really wanted to do well for the girls and for my coach.”
Top photo: Neil Schechter (left) won the gold at the 2017 Maccabiah Games in Israel, in Masters Tennis Doubles 60+ with his partner Scott Kalb.
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