Brother Steven Graber (Drexel, 2012) has taken many of the lessons he learned at AEPi’s Deta Rho chapter and applying them to help advance and expand the Maccabi Games in the U.S. and around the world.
Growing up, Brother Graber played baseball and wrestled. As he grew older, he stopped competing and became more of a fan. Originally from Buffalo, he counts himself a member of the “Bills Mafia” but he also likes basketball and Major League Soccer. Loving sports got him into the business of sports.
Although a communications major at Drexel University, he was involved in the school’s athletic programs. “For two years, I was a manager for the Drexel’s men’s basketball team so that allowed me to learn how an athletic department operates. It allowed me to integrate myself with a lot of the workings of the team.” On occasion Brothers went to games and asked how the team was doing. “One of my fondest memories was the last home game of my senior year, I was able to get my picture taken at center court with my parents and the head coach. I had a number of Brothers who attended to support me for that game and that was really meaningful.” His job helped him know that he wanted to have a career in athletics so after he finished his undergraduate degree he immediately went back for a Masters in Sports Management.
Brother Gerber joined AEPi at Drexel his freshman year. “I took a year off of school for some medical reasons. I was enrolled for a semester at SUNY Buffalo and that chapter welcomed me with open arms. I got to know those Brothers for the time that I was there and they became a lot of my good friends. When I returned back to Drexel in the fall of 2009, the Brothers welcomed me back, I felt like I didn’t really miss out on anything.”
AEPi taught Brother Graber how to effectively reach out to others during his time as rush chair. ”I had to be comfortable with random people. Doing cold outreach and seeing how the conversation goes is constantly what I’m doing in my job. I currently do cold outreach to potential athletes, coaches, donors, families, you name it. Having the courage and ability to clearly talk and know what you’re talking about, is how AEPi helped me.”
In 2009, Brother Graber attended AEPi’s International Convention in New Orleans where he heard the president of Maccabi USA speak. “I thought it was really cool that there was this organization that combined Jewish pride and athletics. So, I got the contact information and met with the executive director at the time to learn more about the organization.” While in grad school, a friend who worked for Maccabi told Brother Graber they needed help for the Maccabiah games in 2013. He worked part time for the Maccabi Games in grad school and after graduation, he began his career there. Today he serves as a Program Director there.
“The best thing about the job is the people that I meet and the people who I work with. I meet hundreds of people – not just from the U.S. – but around the world, a lot of whom have become very close friends of mine. It’s a great experience, everyone works for the collective and bettering the Jewish community.”
Through his time at Maccabi USA, Brother Graber and his colleagues have successfully been able to offer new sports and create divisions within those sports. For example, with soccer they now offer upwards of nine or ten teams. He’s also helped increase domestic programming and grow its presence across the U.S. “We’ve also been growing our young leadership base. I created opportunities for non-sports people to become aware of Maccabi. We also had a couple of fundraisers where we’ve had professional sport outings.”
“It really comes down to the camaraderie and the pride that we instill. Every step of the way, we make it clear that this is a Jewish event and that you should be proud to be Jewish. We do a lot of endeavors to increase Jewish engagement. We incorporate Jewish culture and Jewish education, so when the athletes go back home they support Jewish causes, support Israel and become better people.”
Currently, Brother Graber is working on the Pan American Maccabi Games. He’s working with local organizers in Argentina on which sports to offer and helping to plan a day of Jewish culture and education, including Shabbat Jewish education. In addition, he’s ordering apparel, setting a budget, working on fundraising, security and putting together flights.
“I think that speaking up for the Jewish population is important. It’s educating yourself and others about Jewish causes. It’s showing support, whether it’s financially or volunteering, for a Jewish organization. We get a lot of people who are sports fans in general that donate and volunteer with us because it’s a vehicle for them to increase Jewish pride for Jews around the world. Go and find that avenue that you feel passionately about whether it’s locally, nationally or internationally.”