It’s Friday the 13th – the unluckiest of days on the calendar. Or, is it?

Top Jewish athletes (many JCC Maccabi Games alumni) have taken the unlucky and flipped the script to their benefit. Here’s the top connections to the infamous No. 13:

Jason Lezak – 13 medals (4 JCC Maccabi Games golds + 8 Olympic medals + 1 exhibition victory)

Lezak is a 2009 JCC Maccabi Games alumnus and famed anchor of the US 4×100-meter freestyle relay team that led the Americans to the gold with a remarkable finish with the fastest 100m free split in history to as a crucial role in aiding Michael Phelps’ winning an unprecedented eight golds in a single Olympic Games.

The California-born swimmer went on to win a total of four Olympic gold medals.

Lezak passed up on attending the 2009 World Aquatics Championships to compete in the 18th Maccabiah Games in Israel from July 12 to 29, 2009. He won gold in the 50-meter freestyle, 100-meter freestyle, 4×100-meter freestyle relay, and 4×100-meter medley relay.

At the 2017 Maccabiah Games, in the special exhibition 4×50m relay race between Israeli and American all-star teams, American Olympic champions Lezak, Lenny Krayzelburg (four Olympic golds), and Anthony Ervin (three Olympic golds) combined with Alex Blavatnik to swim a time of 1:48.23 and defeated a team of Israeli Olympians.

Mark Spitz – 13 gold medals between 1969-1972 (6 JCC Maccabi Games golds + 7 historic Olympic golds)

Mark Spitz’s career was incredible: 32 world records (25 individual, 7  relays) from 1968-72; nine gold medals, one silver and one bronze in two Olympics; and 10 total gold medals in the Maccabi Games.

The highlight of his glittering career came at the Munich Olympics in 1972, when he won seven gold medals and set new world records in all seven events. Combining with that historic and iconic event, Spitz began his momentum with his return to Israel for the 1969 Maccabiah, taking six golds.

In 1985, Spitz was part of the Maccabiah once more, this time lighting the torch to open the Games, 20 years after first making a name for himself in the Jewish Olympics.

Sandy Koufax – 13 strikeouts vs. the Chicago Cubs in 1957

Sandy Koufax is arguably the best left-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball history. Although he never participated in the Games, he was born in Brooklyn, New York, to a Jewish family, and raised in Borough Park. Apart from his statistics, Koufax is well known and respected for declining to pitch Game 1 of the 1965 World Series because of his observance of Yom Kippur and in 2010 was included among a group of prominent Jewish Americans at the first White House reception in honor of Jewish American Heritage Month by president Barack Obama.

On May 8, 1957, facing the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, Koufax struck out 13 while pitching his first complete game in almost two years. In 1964, Koufax again struck out 13 in a single game. His 19th win of the season was a shutout in which he struck out 13 batters against  St. Louis.

By the end of his  career, Koufax was the first major league pitcher to pitch four no-hitters and the eighth pitcher to pitch a perfect game in baseball history.

Hopefully, your Friday the 13th is lucky rather than not. Always remember to follow these superstitions, because you just never know…:

  • Find a penny & pick it up. All day long you’ll have good luck!
  • Maybe avoid black cats, just for today!
  • Don’t break any mirrors.  
  • Wish on a wishbone.
  • Absolutely no opening umbrellas inside!

Be sure to RSVP to help us light the JCC Maccabi Games torch and kick off the Games in Atlanta at IGNITE Maccabi on August 26 from 3-6 p.m. at the MJCCA.

For more information, please shoot us a note! If you’re looking to volunteer, sign up as a coach, or sign up as an athlete – you’ve come to the right place.