Tag Archives: MVP

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: Nate Ebner

The Only Super Bowl Champion at the Olympics

Ebner at the Rio Olympics (Credit: Pascal Guyot/AFP/Getty Images)

Ebner at the Rio Olympics (Credit: Pascal Guyot/AFP/Getty Images)

Nate Ebner (b. 1988) was born and raised in Ohio, where his father was the principal of Springfield’s Temple Sholom Hebrew Sunday school. Ebner’s father was a fan of rugby, and introduced his son to the sport at an early age. At 17, Ebner became the youngest player ever to make the US national team. He was also the MVP of the under-19 and under-20 teams. During his third year of studies at Ohio State University, Ebner decided to try out for the football team, and soon became one of their best players. He was named “most inspirational player”, won several awards, and was given a football scholarship for his final, senior year. In 2012, Ebner was drafted by the NFL’s New England Patriots and signed a four-year contract, which he recently extended for another two years. In 2014, he won his first Super Bowl with the team. That year, Patriot’s coach Bill Belichik described him as being in the “top-five percent all time of players that I’ve coached.” Meanwhile, rugby has returned to the Olympics after some 90 years, and Ebner got permission from the Patriots to try out for the team. Having not played rugby professionally for a long time, his odds for making it were put at just 10 to 20 percent. Surprising everyone, Ebner made the team and is now in Rio. That makes him the only NFL player (and Super Bowl champion) to participate in the Olympics. Ebner has been described as a “heat-seeking missile” on the field, and having a “passion for being great”. His main inspiration is his father, who was tragically murdered in a robbery eight years ago. Ebner said of his father: “He taught me the importance of being Jewish… and conduct myself always in a proper manner… My dad was my only role model… There wasn’t anyone else I wanted to be like more than him.”

Words of the Week

The Messiah’s coming is not simply the redemption of the Jews… but a general change in the entire world… we will all recognize that God encompasses past, present, and future as one.
Menachem Mendel Schneerson, The Lubavitcher Rebbe