Tag Archives: Maccabi Tel Aviv

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: Mickey Berkowitz

Israel’s Greatest Athlete

Moshe Berkowitz (b. 1954) was born in Kfar Saba, Israel. At the young age of 11, he joined the Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball youth club. Within a few years, he made the junior team, and at just 17 years old, was already playing on the senior team in the Israeli Basketball Premier League. The same year, he took the Israeli under-18 team to the FIBA (International Basketball Federation) European Championship finals, and was the overall leading scorer of the whole tournament. Shortly after, he led the national team to a gold medal in the 1974 Asian Games in Tehran. This came at a time when Israel was still reeling from the devastating Yom Kippur War, and Berkowitz became a symbol of Israeli strength, success, and vitality. He has since been credited with playing a key role in re-inspiring Israeli youth in the wake of the war.

In 1975, Berkowitz took a short break to play a year of college basketball in the US (with the top-seeded UNLV Runnin’ Rebels). Returning to Maccabi, he transformed the team into a top contender, and in 1977 led Maccabi to its first FIBA European Cup. The team won the championship again in 1981, with Berkowitz scoring the winning shot. He also played on five European All-Star teams, and made history when his Maccabis beat the NBA champion Washington Bullets in 1978, becoming the first FIBA team to ever beat an NBA team. Back home, too, Maccabi was an unstoppable force, with Berkowitz leading the club to 16 national league championship titles and another 13 Israeli State Cups. After a silver medal at the 1979 EuroBasket (and being voted the tournament’s MVP), Berkowitz got flooded with offers from the NBA. However, he was unable to break his Maccabi contract and was forced to stay in the Israeli league. In 1991, Berkowitz was voted among FIBA’s 50 Greatest Players of all time, and more recently made the list of 50 Greatest EuroLeague Contributors. He officially retired in 1995 and wrote a bestselling autobiography. Last year, Berkowitz was inducted into the FIBA Hall of Fame alongside Shaquille O’Neal and several other greats. In the run-up to Israel’s 70th birthday, he was voted the nation’s greatest athlete. Despite being ranked the 35th most famous Israeli, and once being hailed as “king of Israel”, Berkowitz always carried himself with utmost humility and was a natural role model. Two of his sons continue to play pro-basketball in Israel today.

Words of the Week

The thought, the inspiration, and the culture of the Jews has been one of the vital dominants in world history. There are none of the arts or sciences which have not been enriched by Jewish achievements.
– Winston Churchill

Jew of the Week: Aulcie Perry

Aulcie Perry with Israeli kids at his summer camp

Aulcie Perry (b. 1950) was born in New Jersey and went to university in Florida on a basketball scholarship. Between 1974 and 1976, Perry played for a number of professional basketball teams, and was signed by the New York Knicks at one point. After being discovered by an Israeli scout, Perry signed with Maccabi Tel Aviv and moved to the Holy Land. In his first year, he led Maccabi to its first Euro Cup championship. He would go on to play nine seasons with Maccabi, helping them win six Israeli Cups and two Euro Cups. Meanwhile, Perry fell in love with Israel and the Jewish people, and decided to formally convert. He took on the new name Elisha ben Avraham. Unfortunately, Perry got into some drug troubles and would be arrested in New York. He spent several years in prison before returning to Israel. Perry worked hard to clean up his image and become a positive role model. To this day, he sponsors a basketball camp for Israeli kids, and coaches a Maccabi Tel Aviv youth team. The rest of the time he manages a Burger Ranch (Israel’s McDonald’s). Perry is credited with sparking a basketball craze in Israel, and making the sport popular there. He also paved the way for many future basketball stars to sign with Israeli teams, including Anthony Parker and Amar’e Stoudemire in recent years. The term “Aulcie Perry” is still an Israeli slang for a very tall person.

Simchat Torah/Shemini Atzeret Begins Tonight! Chag Sameach!

Words of the Week

When G-d desired to create man, Truth said: “He should not be created, for he will be full of lies.” Kindness said: “He should be created, for he will be full of kindness.”
– Midrash Rabbah, Beresheet 8:5