Cuba's Maccabiah Team Reflects Jewish Revival

44-Member Team Makes History With Israel Debut

Debutants: Members of Cuba’s first-ever Maccabiah Games team poses in Israel.
haaretz
Debutants: Members of Cuba’s first-ever Maccabiah Games team poses in Israel.

By Chemi Shalev (Haaretz)

Published July 19, 2013.

When the members of the Cuban delegation march on to the pitch in Jerusalem’s Teddy Stadium for the 19th Maccabiah’s opening ceremony, they will be making Jewish sporting history. Although individual Cuban athletes have participated in the Maccabiah before, this is the first time that an official delegation from the communist island south of Florida has come to Israel to take part in the games.

If all goes according to plan, the 44 athletes, as well as their coaches and chaperones, will all be sporting spiffy new uniforms in the red, white and blue of the Cuban flag – with the letters PRT sewn onto their sleeves. The letters, however, do not denote any sacred Cuban motto or historic rallying cry: they are the initials of Preston Robert Tisch, the late Jewish billionaire philanthropist who lived his life far away in New York.

His son, Steve Tisch, an Oscar-winning film producer and co-owner of the New York Giants American football team, decided to inscribe the initials on the uniforms as a “personal footnote” to commemorate his late father. He agreed to pay for the design and manufacture of the uniforms during a recent tour of Havana after a 72-year-old leader of the Jewish community convinced him that it was the right thing to do.

The “amazingly charismatic dynamic and passionate” Adela Dworin, as Tisch describes her, who serves as vice president of the El Patronato center at the Beth Shalom synagogue in Havana, was well prepared for her meeting with Tisch. “She knew of my involvement in sports and she knew that I was in the movie business, and that I would be drawn to the fact that this is a great story to tell. I told her I’d be honored,” Tisch recalls.

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