North­eastern stu­dent Hilary Smith won a bronze medal for the U.S. field hockey team in July at the 19th Mac­cabiah Games in Israel, the third largest sporting event in the world. But her most mem­o­rable expe­ri­ence did not take place on the playing field. Instead, it occurred when she vis­ited Yad Vad­shem, Israel’s offi­cial memo­rial to the Jewish vic­tims of the Holocaust.

It was an extremely emo­tional expe­ri­ence I wouldn’t have wanted to share with anyone other than my team­mates,” said Smith, a third-​​year psy­chology major and former mid­fielder on Northeastern’s field hockey team. “As sad as it was, it was also hopeful because many of the people who suf­fered during the Holo­caust were now home.”

Smith is one of four North­eastern stu­dents who par­tic­i­pated in the Mac­cabiah Games. Last Friday, they recounted their expe­ri­ences in Israel over Shabbat dinner at the university’s Hillel House.

Often referred to as the “Jewish Olympics,” the Mac­cabiah is an inter­na­tional ath­letic event held in Israel every four years. In July, some 10,000 Jewish ath­letes from 72 nations com­peted in more than 30 sporting events ranging from base­ball and bas­ket­ball to judo and Greco-​​Roman wrestling.

North­eastern stu­dents rep­re­sented three countries—Spain, Aus­tralia, and the U.S.—and par­tic­i­pated in a trio of sports—soccer, field hockey, and track and field.

Laura Coyne, a fifth-​​year archi­tec­ture major and former mid-​​distance runner for Northeastern’s cross-​​country team, won a bronze medal for the U.S. track and field squad in the 4x400 meter relay. “It was the last event of the meet and the entire sta­dium was cheering us on,” recalled Coyne, whose trip to Israel was financed in part by the university’s Hillel House as well as the North­eastern stu­dent group Huskies for Israel. “At the awards cer­e­mony, the feeling of accom­plish­ment was rewarding and truly unforgettable.”

The opening cer­e­monies, in Jerusalem’s Teddy Sta­dium, were equally mem­o­rable. In recorded remarks, Pres­i­dent Obama told some 30,000 fans that the Games were a “great reminder of how sports can bring people together, and also a great example of friend­ship between nations, espe­cially between Israel and the United States.”

Fourth-​​year student-​​athlete Lau­rence Braude took Obama’s sen­ti­ments to heart and quickly made friends with dozens of ath­letes from all over the world. Some of them plan on vis­iting him at North­eastern, where he plays soccer and studies psychology.

It was a rare expe­ri­ence,” said Braude, a mid­fielder who scored a goal and an assist for Aus­tralia. “I think I would lose count if I tried to name all the nation­al­i­ties of the ath­letes I met in the opening cer­e­monies alone.”

Once the Games began, each North­eastern stu­dent formed a tight bond with his or her team­mates. In prepa­ra­tion for each soccer match, Spain native Jonathan Sultan sang songs with his new­found friends.

I’ll always remember the pride of rep­re­senting my country,” said Sultan, a first-​​year com­puter sci­ence major who played in the Games’ junior cir­cuit. “It was an amazing two weeks.”