Three Great Neck teenagers are getting ready to pack for Israel, having qualified to represent the United States in the Maccabi Games this summer.
Golfer Daniel Frankel, the son of Laurie and Van Frankel, and karate Black Belts Abraham Katz, the son of Barbara and Henry Katz, and Sam Panzer, the son of Ofra and Dr. Robert Panzer, all have visions of major sporting accomplishments in their future.
"It is pretty spectacular that three teens from one community qualify for the games," said Jed Margolis, the executive director of Maccabi USA Sports for Israel, the Philadelphia based headquarters for the United States teams. "In fact," he said, "it's pretty special, it's unique."
The teens --- whose parents all belong to Temple Israel of Great Neck --- qualified independently in their respective sports at recent competitions held in the United States. They will join the best Jewish athletes from all over the world in the Israeli Jewish Olympics, held every four years throughout the state of Israel. The U.S. team, expected to number 700-800, will compete with more than 7,000 athletes from 50 countries.
Opening ceremonies for the 17th Maccabi games will be held on July 11 in Ramat Gan Stadium. The games will run through July 21. U.S. participation will be in four categories: Open, Juniors, Youth and Masters. The U.S. delegation plans to compete in beach volleyball, fencing, field hockey, golf, gymnastics, half-marathon, softball, squash, swimming, table tennis, tae kwon do, tennis, ten-pin bowling, water polo and wrestling.
Temple Israel President Sidney Freedman said he was "thrilled Temple Israel will be represented in these important games. And for our congregation to be represented three times is spectacular."
Athletes in the games are encouraged to privately raise the approximate $5,000 cost of participation. Mr. Freedman said he is looking into the establishment of a fund to allow contributions to the three athletes to be distributed equally.
Daniel Frankel, who last weekend came in third in the National Junior Players Tournament, held in Palm City, Florida, has been playing golf since he was a young child. A 17-year-old senior at Great Neck North High School, he is ranked fifth on the Junior PGA Tour and is the 25th ranked Junior in New York State.
To qualify for the Maccabi Games, he won a 54-hole three-round qualifier held in Mid Pines, North Carolina. He won the final round against five other participants averaging 79 per round for three rounds.
In Israel, he will play on the country's one major golf course, in Caesaria, along with three other members of the U.S. team, from California, North Carolina and New York.
He is a straight-A student and an All-State tenor who will be traveling to Epcot in Florida shortly to perform with singers from his high school. A graduate of the Temple's Waxman High School, he currently participates in activities of the Pastoral Committee.
Abraham Katz, 16, is a student of Sensi Howard Frydman of North Shore Shotokan Karate, a karate school on Middle Neck Road in the Village of Great Neck. As an 11-year karate student, he holds a Second Degree Black Belt and is an assistant sempai, or instructor. To qualify for the Maccabi Games, he competed against athletes from all over the country in competitions held recently in Lawrence.
He is a junior at Great Neck North High School and is on his school's fencing and mock trial teams. An honor student, he participated in the school's Model UN and was recently named a Columbia University Science Honor Student. He is currently attending the Waxman High School.
Karate apparently runs in the family. His sister, Deborah, 15, also is a Black Belt, his brother, Samuel, 14 is about to become a Black Belt, and his brother, Joseph, 10, is a Brown Belt.
Samuel Panzer, 14, a fifth year karate student, earned his Black Belt last May. He is also a student at North Shore Shotokan Karate and recognized for his "potential" by Sensi Frydman.
His parents started taking lessons with him five years ago, "but we are still Brown Belts," said his proud mom, "You can see who is the real achiever in the family."
A ninth grade honor student at Great Neck North High School, he is a member of his school's Chess Team, Math Team, a participant in the Science Olympiad and works as a writer on the school newspaper. At the Temple Religious School, he received the Akiba Award, given to one outstanding student each year by METNY. He also participates in the highly selective Institute for Creative Problem Solving at SUNY Old Westbury, a program for high achievers in math.
Although his family had originally planned to participate in the upcoming Temple trip to Israel, they are now moving their trip to the summer so they can watch him compete in the games.
"There is nothing like going to Israel and representing your country in the games," said Executive Director Margolis. "The atmosphere there is that you are not competing against other athletes, you are competing with fellow Jews."
The U.S. team will arrive in Israel on July 2 and tour the country before the games open on July 11. Independent competitions, sponsored by JCCs in the United States, are held on years between the Israeli Maccabi games.