Bigger Than Just a Game


Rachel Katzenberg

What is the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about a sports tournament? Is it the camaraderie of the teammates, the loud noises from the whistles blowing or the thrill of the competition? Whatever your definition, we can all agree that in today’s climate, any tournament that brings together multiple countries with varying customs and beliefs, should be celebrated.

Baltimore native Rachel Katzenberg, a first-year goalkeeper at Mount Holyoke College, has been selected to the 18-athlete roster for the 21st Maccabiah games held in Israel next month. Katzenberg grew up playing field hockey – she attended the Jemicy Lower School and graduated high school from St. Paul’s School for Girls. As a teenager, Katzenberg was active in 4Front, the Baltimore Jewish community’s comprehensive teen initiative.

The Maccabiah Games, often referred to as the “Jewish Olympics”, takes place every four years in Israel. We caught up with Katzenberg in between practices and school to learn more about how she earned her place on the team and what it means to connect with her roots during this international competition.

What does it mean to you personally to be representing Team USA during the 21st Macabbi games?

Rachel Katzenberg letter

It is almost an unreal feeling knowing that after the Olympics, Paralympics and World Cup, this is the next largest athletic competition. When I was in 5th grade, I was a Girl Scout and we had to write down our short-term and long-term goals. The goal that I wrote down on a little pink heart, that I still have today, was “I am on the team for the Macabbi games for Israel.”

It was ironic because tryouts could be anywhere in the country, but they ended up being ten minutes from my house. About two weeks after the tryouts, I got an email saying I made the team and I have been floating on cloud nine ever since.

How has your Jewish identity been intertwined with being chosen to represent Team USA?

I have never been surrounded by Jewish athletes, and here I will be around thousands of the top Jewish athletes from all over the world. I am looking forward to getting to expand my community especially by meeting other young Jewish field hockey players from around the globe. While we can be hundreds of thousands of miles apart, we are still part of the same Jewish community, and that is what we can celebrate this summer.

Is there a specific Jewish athlete that has inspired you?

I will be honest, when I saw this question, it was difficult for me to answer. I think as a society we do not promote enough Jewish athletes. No, I do not have a pro or national Jewish role model, however, Candice Fisher who teaches at SPSG has coached me throughout my whole life. She is Jewish and was also selected to be the coach for the Maccabi games this summer. She is one of my role models and really shaped me not only as a player but also as the person I am today. I am excited to share this journey to Israel with Coach Fisher by my side.

What are you most looking forward to about traveling to Israel in Summer of 2022?

I am very excited to surround myself with so many Jewish athletes, but to be honest I am really looking forward to the food.

What is your fondest memory of growing up in Baltimore and playing high level field hockey? How has that helped shape who you are today as an athlete?

Growing up in Baltimore there is such a sense of community especially when you narrow it down to the Jewish community. There is such high competition in Baltimore in terms of players.

The 21st Maccabiah Games will take place in Israel on July 12-26, 2022 with the opening ceremony being held at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem on July 14th.


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