JERUSALEM — Of all the compelling stories of athletic achievement and challenges overcome that could be told by the 9,000 participants gathering in Israel for the 19th Maccabiah Games, it might be hard to find one to top Jacques Demers.
He’s a coaching legend, having led the Montreal Canadiens to the National Hockey League championship in 1993. He’s also a member of the Canadian Parliament.
And until about a decade ago, he would have been unable to read the words in this article.
Demers disclosed in his 2005 autobiography that he was functionally illiterate, a result of a traumatic childhood with an alcoholic father who beat him and his mother.
“I suffered from a tremendous amount of anxiety,” Demers told JTA in an interview last week from his home outside Montreal. “When you have that problem, people think you’re dumb and stupid.”