‘We all had a special connection’

‘We all had a special connection’

Melissa Neglio, 12, the daughter of Stacy and Dominick Neglio of Old Bridge and a student at the religious school of Temple Beth Ahm in Aberdeen, came home a winner from the Mid-Atlantic JCC Junior Maccabi Games. Participating in the 100-yard freestyle, 50-yard backstroke, mixed 200-yard relay, and 50-yard freestyle relay at the games at the Katz JCC in Cherry Hill on May 15, Melissa won a gold medal, two silvers, and a bronze. In addition to her athletic achievements, Melissa found camaraderie and inspiration from participating in the games. The following is the message she wrote for the TBA bulletin:

On May 15, I attended a swim meet. For me, going to a swim meet isn’t unusual, because I go to a swim meet almost every weekend. However, this one was special. It was for the Junior Maccabi Games. It is where young Jewish athletes come and participate in many different sports.

The Junior Maccabi Games bring young athletes together. From experience, I can say I have met, competed against, and talked to many new people. Although I didn’t know many of the athletes, I made new friends. I met new kids and I hope to see them at Kadima encampment too. Aside from swimming, I also enjoyed watching some of the other sports too — there was basketball, soccer, tennis, baseball, and even robotics, to name a few.

What was really special was the opening ceremonies. It was really cool going out and walking in front of all those people. Each delegation from the Northeast had a sign and was called out just like the Olympics. What also made me feel proud is that I was able to win some medals, which I was surprised because these were the top swimmers in the area. I felt proud to be a part of this Jewish community that I had no idea was so vast. There were kids from Connecticut and even Washington, DC, and what we all had in common was that we were Jewish and we were athletes. We all had a special connection.

Although this was my second time participating, it was bittersweet, as I am not eligible for the Junior Games any longer because of my age. I hope to qualify for the regular Maccabi Games next year and represent New Jersey throughout the country and in Israel. And I hope others who are a part of Temple Beth Ahm and other synagogues in our area will join so we can have the biggest delegation out there.

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