By Jack Minton '18
Playing college sports is a dream that becomes reality for only a handful of lucky athletes. Representing your country on the field of play is another level of rarity, reserved for competitors who have truly mastered their craft. Danny Rubenstein '17 is one of those rare individuals.
Rubenstein, who will graduate in May with a degree in Economics, has been selected to represent the United States of America in Open Men's Soccer in the 20th World Macabbi Games. The competition will take place this July in Israel, and feature the best Jewish athletes from around the world, with events taking place in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Haifa.
The privilege of being selected is not lost on Rubenstein, who feels "so honored to be able to represent both my country and my religion." This is the first time Rubenstein has represented the United States in any capacity, and he is ecstatic to "wear the USA crest and compete for this amazing country."
Rubenstein, who is Jewish, is thrilled to go to Israel for the first time and showcase American soccer. "I just cannot wait to get out there, since I've never been [to Israel] before," Rubenstein offered. "It is going to be a surreal experience in such an incredible place and I look forward to doing what I love most with my brothers. It is an honor to be able to represent my country, but almost more special to help represent the Jewish people to the world."
Since 1932, over 62,000 athletes have participated in the Maccabiah Games. This summer, Maccabi USA will send over 1,100 athletes to Israel, where they will join with 10,000 Jewish athletes from 80 countries, participating in 43 different sports.
A Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania native, Rubenstein came to Wesleyan as a top soccer recruit in the fall of 2013. He played youth soccer for the Haverford School, the esteemed F.C. Delco, and trained at Greylock in Massachusetts, along with fellow Wesleyan athletes Chad Malinowski '19 and Matthew Metros '18. Rubenstein, who served as captain in his senior season, started in all 31 competitions for the Cardinals in the past two years, anchoring the defense at left full back.
Rubenstein feels his Wesleyan career has helped immensely to prepare him for this moment: "I've had four years of training and competing at an extremely high level; the physicality of NESCAC soccer should give me a competitive advantage at the games this summer." Rubenstein was a bright spot throughout a disappointing men's soccer season that saw the Cardinals miss out on the playoffs after losing seven of their final eight matches. "The season did not go as we had hoped," Rubenstein explained, "but playing for Wesleyan is a dream come true, no matter if we win, lose, or draw."
Alec Haas '20 has had the special joy of playing with Rubenstein for two different teams, playing under him for one year at Haverford, and then joining the Cardinals squad this year as a freshman. Haas has enjoyed watching Rubenstein improve over the years, while benefiting from the mentorship and wisdom he's received from the man who captained both teams they played on together. "Danny is like my big brother, and the lessons he has taught me over the years absolutely transcend soccer," said Haas. "Nobody works harder than him - a classic first one in, last one out guy." Haas and his teammates are incredibly proud of their captain, and believe no one is more deserving of this honor.
An important mission of the Macabbi Games is to provide Jewish role models in sports, something which Macabbi USA president Ron Carner often says is considerably lacking. Rubenstein said it was difficult for him to grow up without a Jewish role model in the athletic world, but Dodger legend Sandy Koufax means a lot to him. "Koufax is the Jewish athlete that I admire the most," said Rubenstein. "His dedication to baseball and Judaism was unique and special, and I have always tried to model my preparation after him."
According to the Maccabi USA website, the games help "build Jewish pride through sports, generating the emotional intensity, high ideals, and powerful camaraderie of competition. We connect athletes, volunteers, and supporters with the global Jewish community."
In the 2013 World Macabbi Games, USA took home Gold in men's soccer for the first time ever. Rubenstein will be leading the charge in the always difficult quest for back-to-back Golds.