The Israel Connection

Daniel Gurevich, MWU Shaliach

As  I enter my second year as the Israeli emissary (Shaliach) at Maccabi USA, I’d like to take this opportunity to share with you some of the interesting stories and life changing experiences that are made possible by being part of the Maccabi family.

In preparation for the 2019 Regional Games, I chose to interview Jake Rauchbach who will be leading the Open Men’s Basketball Team for the 15th European Maccabi Games this summer in Budapest, Hungary. Previously, he served as the Assistant Coach for the gold-medal winning Open Men’s Basketball Team at 20th World Maccabiah Games in the summer of 2017. Through exposure at the Games, Jake received an offer to work abroad in Israel. 

Daniel Gurevich

DG: Jake, thank you so much for volunteering to share your story and experience with our readers. Tell me a bit about yourself, how did you get connected to Maccabi USA?

JR: I played basketball and worked at Drexel University. During this time, I developed a strong relationship with Steve Graber who was the Head Manager of the Men’s basketball team. Steve and I remained in contact, and after graduation he took a position with Maccabi USA. He always told me that he would let me know if there was a coaching opening with the Maccabiah Games.  

DG: How did you find yourself living and working in Israel?

JR: I visited Israel as a tourist for the first time in April 2017 and fell in love with the country.  Serendipitously the week I returned from Israel I got a call from Steve saying they were looking for an Assistant Coach for the Maccabiah Games asking if I would be interested? I jumped at the chance. 

After capturing the Gold Medal at the 20th World Maccabiah Games as Assistant Coach for the Open Men’s Basketball Team, I was offered a couple opportunities to stay in Israel and Coach professionally. I ended up accepting a role as an Assistant Coach for the Ness Ziona Basketball Club in the Israeli Super League.  

DG: What was a typical day for you in Israel?

JR: I lived 10 minutes from the gym, our team would practice in the morning for 2 hours. After practice, I would breakdown film for our upcoming game and work with our players both on and off the court for an hour or two to prepare them for the week’s competition. After work, I often would go to the Palmachim National Park Beach to catch some sun which was close by Rishon Lezion. From there, I would head home for dinner and more basketball preparation. If it was Shabbat, I would make my way to friends’ houses for dinner.

DG: What was one of the most positive experiences that you had in Israel?

JR: Our team was the lowest budget team in the league. We made team history by beating storied Maccabi Tel Aviv twice in the same season, one of those wins coming in the playoffs. We also beat Hapoel Jerusalem. I was given the opportunity to work in a country that I loved, doing what I loved to do; all while experiencing a completely different culture than that of the United States. 

DG: Can you share an experience that made you to feel completely out of your comfort zone while in Israel?

JR: At basketball practice many times, our staff members and players would speak in Hebrew to one another. At first this made me feel out of my element as my Hebrew could use some work. Fortunately, I gradually adjusted to it while also improving my Hebrew!

DG: In your opinion what is the most significant difference between Israelis and Americans?

JR: Israeli’s have huge hearts and will go out of their way to help you acclimate as an Oleh Hadash (new citizen). In the same regard, they can be very blunt and or aggressive which is not normal to most Americans who prefer more subtler ways of communications. 

DG: Do you feel that this experience helped you professionally?

JR: The experience coaching professional basketball in a top 10 league in the world, has helped me tremendously in furthering my career. It was a huge resume builder, along with building my leadership, communication, and overall coaching skill sets.

DG: What is your favorite place in Israel? 

JR: Jerusalem 

DG: What is your favorite Israeli food?

JR: The food was amazing! It was always fresh! Be sure to get to the grocery before 3 P.M. on Friday though or you won’t be able to get groceries until Sunday! The Dates! Hummus and sabich are two of my favorites! When you get to Tel Aviv check out Abu Hassan in Jaffa, it’s delicious!

DG: Would you recommend this adventure of living and working abroad to other Maccabi alumni?

JR: I would absolutely recommend this adventure to other Maccabi Alumni; living in Israel changed my life. I will carry the experiences and lesson I learned there with me forever. 

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