Broadcasting the Summer Olympic Games is a massive operation, with more than 7,000 personnel covering 28 sports utilizing 1,000-plus cameras, taking the games global.

For the first time, the so-called Jewish Olympics will be broadcast around the world from July 12-26 with slightly more humble resources, though still requiring a herculean effort.

The legendary former TV broadcaster for the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, Marc Zumoff, is taking 14 hand-selected college and high school broadcasting students, along with a supervisory staff of media professionals, to Israel for this month’s Maccabiah games. Three crews—one each in Jerusalem, Haifa and Netanya—will bring the games to a worldwide audience through a combination of live event coverage, special features, highlight packages and social-media updates. The students, chosen from a pool of some 60 applicants, will serve in a multitude of roles, including on-air presenters, camera operators, editors, writers and producers.

“Immense doesn’t begin to describe this challenge, but we’ll be able to look back and say that we got it built. This is a labor of love, and I’m glad I can do work that I want to do, rather than have to do,” Zumoff, a Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Famer, told JNS, quickly adding, “not that the Sixers ever felt like work.”

Former Philadelphia 76ers announcer Marc Zumoff is leading a student media delegation to Israel to broadcast the Maccabiah Games. Courtesy: Philadelphia 76ers.

Through a combination of fundraising by Zumoff and Maccabi USA, Zumoff’s group purchased around $30,000 of broadcast equipment and is heavily subsidizing the participation fee for the student broadcasters, who will need to front only $1,500 for travel, accommodations and food, as opposed to the $8,000 to $12,000 that athletes and other participants need to contribute.

Simon Rosenwasser, owner and executive producer of Play by Play Productions, is leading the effort on the broadcast streaming side. Neal Slotkin, a Philadelphia-based veteran of the sports-production industry, is serving as Maccabi USA Media Coordinator. Together, they traveled to Israel back in March to do site surveys of the competition venues.

“We visited 23 locations and were looking for camera placement and infrastructure, including high-speed Internet, for the venues. We’ve had to limit the number of sports that we can stream to about five or six. Now we’re waiting for the competition schedules to come out. But we’ll be choosing between ice hockey, which is taking place in the spectacular arena in Jerusalem, basketball, soccer, and possibly, swimming, volleyball and field hockey,” Slotkin told JNS, noting that he wanted to give students the best chances of success by presenting them with high-profile sports rather than events like judo or karate, where they might not know the rules and particulars.

Still, the crews will produce feature video packages, highlighting human-interest stories across the Maccabiah Games.

Slotkin said that the broadcasting element is only half of the purpose.

Zachary Gershman (left), a Penn State University student, will be a part of the Maccabi Media crew. Credit: Courtesy.

‘Some of the best athletes in the world’

Philadelphia native Zachary Gershman, who just completed his junior year at Penn State University, will be part of the Jerusalem-based crew. A graduate of the Philadelphia-area Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy, it will be Gershman’s third time visiting Israel.

“The last time I was there was my junior year of high school, and I had a broken wrist and was really limited in what I could do. I said then that when I go back, I want to do it my way. To incorporate broadcasting—a dream since I was 12 years old—and to do it in an Olympic-style event, with some of the best athletes in the world, religious or not, is an incredible feeling,” he told JNS.

Two years ago, Gershman said he was working on the sidelines of Penn State football games, wrapping TV cables. He’s now an anchor and producer for a show highlighting Penn State sports, teaching fellow students how to operate the teleprompter, graphics and editing.

He and the rest of the student media delegation visited Temple University in Philadelphia for a two-day broadcast boot camp that began on Sunday, where they were introduced to the equipment they’ll use and learned the logistics of how exactly they’re going to pull all of this off. Matt Fine, a broadcast professor at Temple, is assisting with the effort. Guest lecturers included well-regarded national play-by-play announcer Gary Thorne and Jake Novak, the broadcast media director at the Israeli Consulate General in New York, who formerly broadcast Columbia University football.

Then, off they went to Israel for 10 days as part of the Israel Connect program, with visits to the Masada, the Dead Sea and the Western Wall, among other sites. The Maccabiah Opening Ceremony will be held at the Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem on July 14, and broadcast duties will begin shortly thereafter, if they haven’t already.

‘The experience of a lifetime’

Elana Mutnick, a University of Maryland sophomore from Paramus, N.J., headed to Israel for the first time, one year before her planned Birthright trip next summer. Part of the Haifa-based crew, Mutnick is a member of the Maryland student media group called The Left Bench and has already garnered experience anchoring shows, along with handling game reports, interviews and video packages.

Elana Mutnick, a student at the University of Maryland, is heading to Israel for the first time as a member of the Maccabi Media crew. Credit: Courtesy.

“I’m most looking forward to learning from those more experienced, to become a better journalist. I grew up in a Jewish household, but I’ve lost touch a little with my Jewish identity. So this trip is just perfect,” Mutnick told JNS.

“My brother is insanely jealous. This is truly going to be the experience of a lifetime, and it will end sooner than I think,” she said.

Slotkin said that while the trip will be an intense live classroom experience, that’s only part of the equation.

“We’re going to be over their shoulders, making suggestions and recommendations, and pointing out ways to improve. But importantly, they are members of the delegation. So, they will participate, enjoy and experience all the elements,” he explained. “It’s half a career-development program, but we’d be remiss if they went through these three weeks and didn’t have time to personally absorb the moment, discovering the land of Israel with 10,000 athletes, and finding their identity.”

JNS

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