Every four years the Maccabiah Games brings Jewish athletes from around the world to Israel to participate in an Olympic-style sports festival.
Rugby has been a big part of that event, with South Africa dominating the drive for gold, although the USA won gold in 1997. The USA Maccabia program is in the process of recruiting players and developing its team. And for the 2013 Maccabiah Games, things are a little different.
The Maccabiah rugby tournament has always been a 15-a-side tournament. This time around it will be two events - a one-day 7s tournament around the beginning of the Games, and a 15-a-side tournament to run the length of the festival.
"We'll be taking a squad of about 30 players, with some of those playing both 7s and 15s," said Head Coach Shawn Lipman, who captained the USA to that gold in 1997. "The team is coming together, but we still have a lot of spots open for players who are interested."
Likely to lead the way for the USA will be players such as Zack Test and Dallen Stanford, who have both played for the USA 7s national team, while Jeremy Nash is also a former Eagle who could be on the team. Promising prop Ross Silverman and former Eagle scrumhalf Robbie Shaw have also been in conversations.
The key for Lipman will not be those upper-echelon players. He expects to have ten or so international-caliber players, followed by ten or so strong Super League-level players. The key is the quality of that third group of ten. If they are solid, then the USA will have a good squad.
"More and more people are coming out of the woodwork," said Lipman, who is not above scouring top club and college rosters for Jewish-sounding names and making inquiries.
The Maccabi USA Rugby Team will assemble Labor Day Weekend, August 31-Sept. 3 in Northrbook, Ill. to put players through their paces. This is an open tryout, and Jewish rugby players who are interested in playing 7s or 15s or both are welcome to apply. There is a tryout fee, but the program has secured an extremely favorable rate at the Crowne Plaza Chicago-Northbrook.
"We are still scouting and still looking for players," said Lipman. "And this assembly is an opportunity for guys to get an idea of what the Maccabiah Games are, and for us to see what talent we have. We still some time away from the actual Games, but we want to get started. And we're really excited to have 7s rugby as part of it."
If you are Jewish and good at rugby, and you are interested in trying out, email the program at
The 19th Maccabiah Games are set to start July 18, 2013 with the opening ceremonies in Jerusalem, and events all over Israel.
In 2009, the USA earned the Bronze Medal, beating Canada and Chile in pool play, but losing to Great Britain in the semis. In the Bronze Medal match they beat Israel 43-3, while in the Gold Medal game, Australia edged Great Britain 19-16.