Maryland’s reigning table tennis champion in the 70+ age division has his sights set on a bigger trophy this week: bringing home the gold for Team USA in the 20th World Maccabiah Games in Israel.
“It’s the culmination of a life-long dream,” says Stuart Goldberg, a 75-year-old retired linguist who lives with his wife, Helen, in Silver Spring. “I’ve played in, and won, a lot of tournaments across the country, from Las Vegas and Lubbock to Minneapolis and Cincinnati, but playing the sport I love in the Jewish homeland is taking things to a completely new level.”
Goldberg hits balls weekly at a number of local elite table tennis clubs. He also promotes the sport by donating tables to the Leo Bernstein Jewish Academy (LBJA) school, where Helen is the principal, and by coaching a team he set up at the Yeshiva of Greater Washington Boys Division.
“Table tennis clubs have sprung up everywhere and more people are playing than ever before,” he says. “But the sport still suffers from what I call the Rodney Dangerfield effect — it doesn’t get enough respect.”
He says table tennis should be introduced in more schools, with competition among the middle and high schools. With eight grandchildren in Jewish day schools in the area — including JDS, Kehillat Montessori, LBJA, and the Silver Spring Learning Center — Goldberg thinks the sport could take off in the DMV Jewish community.
“Parents and students love the sport. It’s not as expensive as, say, hockey or lacrosse, and chances of injury are minimal. It’s been an Olympic sport since 1998 and I’d love to see more home-grown players better able to compete at the international levels,” he said.
Goldberg’s table tennis skills were first honed in the basement of his childhood home in cold and snowy Detroit. He spent more than 40 years living in El Paso, Texas, and, in 2014, was elected to the El Paso Senior Sports Hall of Fame.
Ed. Note: Stuart Goldberg is the father of Ari Ben Goldberg.
By Ari Ben Goldberg
Ari Ben Goldberg is a freelance journalist and vice president of communications at First Focus, an advocacy group dedicated to making children the top priority in federal policymaking. He is a contributing editor to the Times of Israel and former Media Relations Director at AIPAC.