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Field hockey family affair

Ariel Eber recalls her first Maccabiah Games opening ceremonies, in 2005, as "overwhelming and exciting." (QuickStix)

Ariel Eber recalls her first Maccabiah Games opening ceremonies, in 2005, as “overwhelming and exciting.” (QuickStix)

MACCABIAH GAMES

NEW YORK (JTA) — Mim Chappell-Eber can hear the 50,000 fans cheering as the U.S. team walked into Ramat Gan Stadium for the opening ceremonies of the 2005 Maccabiah Games, the members in their red, white and blue making a circle around the field.

It was the fourth Maccabiah for Chappell-Eber, the coach of the women’s field hockey team and a former player. But this time she was accompanied by her daughter, Ariel Eber, the team’s goalie.

“Representing the country with her was a great bonding experience,” says Chappell-Eber, who made her Maccabiah debut as a sweeper in 1993, then returned for the ’97 Games as a player-coach. “It’s not often you get to coach your children in a setting like that representing your country.”

“Overwhelming and exciting” is how Eber remembers the moment.

Mother and daughter will be returning to Ramat Gan Stadium for the July 13 opening of the 18th Games as part of the 900-member U.S. contingent.

Eber, 26, of Westfield, N.J., will be in goal again for her coach/mom as the United States tries to improve on its bronze medal performance from ’05. She is the only returning player from the U.S. squad.

Chappell-Eber, 54, of Plainfield, N.J., says this year’s unit is the most talented she has guided at a Maccabiah.

“There are no high school players; they’re all in college or out of college,” she says. “We have a former under-21 national player and a national indoor team player” – her daughter.

“If we keep our heads, I do my job and they do their job, we’ll win gold.”

Chappell-Eber, who is married to a Tel Aviv native, and Eber say the mother-daughter relationship is no problem on the field.

“It’s no different than playing for anyone else,” says Eber, a former all-conference performer at the University of Vermont. “On the field I don’t think of her as mom, I think of her as my coach and treat her the same as any other coach I have.”

Mom offers the same line.

“I reward her and punish her just like anyone else,” Chappell-Eber says. “I try not to be harder on her than anyone else. I’ve had to cut her from teams.”

Besides the on-field relationship, the two bring another unique perspective: They are black Jews. Chappell-Eber converted 27 years ago, though she says that living in Brooklyn in an apartment building with many Orthodox Jews, she “always felt Jewish.”

“You go to the Maccabiah Games, with 62 countries, you don’t just see the Ashkenazi Jews you see in America,” she says. “Indians, South Americans — every country that has Jews in it, they’re all there.

“Me being a black American and being a little different from Jewish white America, it’s great to see the differences. So often in the United States you just think of one type of Jew.”

Eber recalls from the ’05 trip, “Near Netanya where we stay, you tell them you’re with the Maccabiah, they get so excited, they don’t care what color you are.”

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