Tag Archives: Basketball

Jew of the Week: Amar’e Stoudemire

Things You Didn’t Know About the Basketball Legend

Amar’e Stoudemire (Courtesy: JNF)

Amar’e Stoudemire (b. 1982) was born near Orlando, Florida. He started playing basketball in high school, though he only managed to play two full seasons because his struggling family had to move six times. Despite this, his incredible talents were clear and he was named Florida’s Mr. Basketball. Ranked as the number one prospect in 2002, Stoudemire skipped college to go straight to the NBA, getting drafted in the first round by the Phoenix Suns. In his rookie season, he set a points record and won the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award—the first player straight out of high school to do so. After coming very close to the championship many times in Phoenix, Stoudemire tried his luck with the New York Knicks. There he set a franchise record with nine straight games where he scored over 30 points, then led the team to the playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade. Unfortunately, Stoudemire suffered many injuries, including to his knees, his spinal discs, and even retinal damage to his eye. He retired from the NBA in 2016 after 14 seasons, 6 All-Star appearances, and 15,994 points. Having always known his mother was part of the Black Hebrew Israelites, Stoudemire decided to fulfil an old dream and move to Israel to explore his heritage more closely. Meanwhile, he signed with Hapoel Jerusalem and led the team to an Israeli Basketball championship. After two seasons, Stoudemire retired and soon began the Orthodox conversion process. He completed his conversion last summer, taking on the Jewish name Yehoshafat. At the same time, he returned for one more season with Maccabi Tel Aviv and led them to the 2020 Israeli Basketball championship, also winning the League MVP award. Last October, he was hired by the Brooklyn Nets as an assistant coach. He recently made news when the Nets gave him Shabbat off, so he does not appear on the court from Friday to Saturday evening. Stoudemire has been praised both for his extensive volunteer and philanthropic work, as well as his devotion to Torah and Judaism. Over the course of his career, Stoudemire has also appeared in a number of TV shows and films, had a Nike shoe line and his own clothing line, published a series of children’s books, owns a record label, and a kosher winery called Stoudemire Cellars. He also started an educational program where Black and Jewish youth can learn and play basketball together. Stoudemire continues to learn Torah regularly and serves as an inspirational figure to thousands both on and off the court.

Words of the Week

I was always intrigued with the prophets, I was always intrigued by how these guys carried themselves. How they lived their life, how they were so on point with everything, from a righteous standpoint. And so my mindset was like, ‘How do I get to that level?’ It’s a heavy lift, it’s not easy, I’m not sure it’s possible. And so that is what somewhat gave me my love to continue my search, continue to try to clean myself up, clean my character, understand how to carry myself, how to speak properly, how to not use profanity, how to not say certain words, not speak lashon hara.
– Amar’e Stoudemire

Jew of the Week: Deni Avdija

The NBA’s Next Big Star?

Deni Avdija
(Credit: Maccabi.co.il)

Deni Avdija (b. 2001) was born in Kibbutz Beit Zera in Israel to a Serbian-Muslim father and an Israeli-Jewish mother. His father was a professional basketball player who had moved to Israel to play for Ramat HaSharon, and then several other clubs. The elder Avdija fell in love with the country and people, and settled in Israel permanently. Deni grew up playing basketball, too, and joined the youth club of Maccabi Tel Aviv when he was 12. At just 16, he signed with Maccabi’s senior team, making him the youngest player ever in the Israeli Basketball Premier League. He went on to win three championships with the team. In the last season, he was the league MVP—setting another record as the youngest player ever to win that prize. He was also the MVP at the European Basketball Without Borders tournament in 2018, and the MVP at the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders Global Camp last year. Avdija earned yet another MVP at the Under-20 FIBA European Championships last year, when he led Israel’s team to the gold. (Though he is eligible to play for Serbia, he has chosen to represent his birth country Israel on the international stage.) After spending a few months with the IDF this past year while basketball was on hold due to COVID, he was drafted by the NBA’s Washington Wizards and signed a rookie contract. He made his NBA debut in a preseason game against the Brooklyn Nets, making a huge splash with 15 points and 2 assists, and going 100% in field goals and threes. The announcer at the game called him the “Mensch off the Bench”, to go along with his other title, “the Israeli sensation”. Some predict he may become the NBA’s next big star. Avdija recently did a public menorah-lighting during Chanukah. He hopes to highlight his proud heritage in the NBA, and to show all “the great things about Israel”.

Words of the Week

When sheep have no leader, they huddle together and imitate each other out of fear. And I’m not talking about sheep.
– Rabbi Aharon Feldman

Jews of the Week: Isaiah Kenan & Larry Weinberg

Portland Trail Blazers and AIPAC

Larry Weinberg

Lawrence Jay Weinberg (1926-2019) was born in New York City. He fought valiantly with the US Army in World War II, earning a Purple Heart, Combat Infantry Badge, and the Bronze Star. He was horribly injured in a battle in France, and spent a year in recovery. After university studies, Weinberg founded the Larwin Company, a housing developer. Two decades later, having merged with another company, it had become the top housing developer in the country, building over 8000 residential units a year. Meanwhile, Weinberg was also the founder of Com-Air Products, a manufacturer of jet engine parts. In 1970, Weinberg teamed up with two other prominent Jewish businessmen to bring an NBA team to Portland. They succeeded, and five years later, Weinberg became president of the Portland Trail Blazers. The team won its first NBA Championship in 1977. Weinberg continued as president until selling the team to Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen in 1988. By that point, Weinberg had also become a major force within AIPAC, the “pro-Israel Lobby” in Washington, and had served as its president for several years.

Isaiah “Si” Kenen

AIPAC was founded by Isaiah Leo Kenen (1905-1988). Kenen was born to a Russian-Jewish immigrant family in Canada. He studied philosophy at the University of Toronto, and went on to become a journalist for the Toronto Star. In 1926, he moved to Cleveland, where he took up the study of law and was admitted to the bar in 1933. Some years later, he became president of the Cleveland Zionist District, and during this time worked for the Jewish Agency. After 1948, he served in Israel’s delegation to the United Nations. In 1951, he was asked to lobby Congress for some financial aid for Israel to deal with the huge influx of Jewish refugees it was receiving, especially the nearly 1 million Sephardic and Mizrachi Jews expelled from Arab countries. (While the world focuses on Palestinian refugees, the plight of Jewish refugees continues to be ignored.) Kenen’s lobbying team would transform into AIPAC in 1959, and has worked hard to draw American support for Israel ever since. AIPAC has become a powerful lobbying group (once ranked as the second most powerful), which has unfortunately brought with it a great deal of negative publicity, not to mention being implicated in wild conspiracy theories. Today, AIPAC has more than 100,000 members, and has been called “the single most important organization in promoting the US-Israel alliance.” Their yearly conference draws some 18,000 supporters, along with a host of renowned speakers. This year’s conference will take place in Washington DC starting March 24th.

The Mizrahi Project: Remembering the Jewish Refugees

Words of the Week

I am convinced that it is true that God created this earth but it is also a fact that only an Israel can keep this earth from dying.

– Tashbih Sayyed, Pakistani-American scholar