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No baskets on Shabbat | Jewish general

Two stars currently live on the New York Yeshiva University campus. Ryan Turell and Gabriel Leifer are members of the basketball team at the small Jewish private university. The team is called “Maccabees” and there are a lot of guys in the sports world right now. With 40 wins in a row, you have by far the longest winning streak in US college basketball. So TV channels like ESPN and CNN or newspapers like the Los Angeles Times show interest – and so do scouts from the professional league NBA.

This is unusual because the Maccabees play in Division III of the college league Skyline Conference, in the third division. His parents asked him why Ryan Turell didn’t choose a Division I team. “Why did you send me to Valley Torah High School?” Was the counter-question. He had spent all of his school days in Jewish schools, so why shouldn’t he go to this college too? And if Jewish basketball, it had to be Yeshiva University. Basketball has been played there since 1935: training and religious studies are harmonized, the first session takes place at six o’clock, before morning prayer.

TALENTS That makes a sports scholarship for non-Jewish and also for secular Jewish talents not all that attractive. In the eyes of many observers, this is a major shortcoming. But a head coach has been under contract with Elliot Steinmetz since 2014, and what others consider a disadvantage, he considers a special Jewish advantage: While the competing colleges are mainly planning with players from New York and the surrounding area, Steinmetz is looking for talents in the Orthodox Communities across America and Israel.

In addition, the Maccabees agreed with the league not to schedule their games on Shabbat or on public holidays. Steinmetz was even able to reinterpret the third division as an argument for young talent. He told Israel-raised player Ofek Reef, “You can go to a DI program and sit on the bench until you’re a junior, or you can come here and play for 25-30 minutes as a newbie.”

Trainer Steinmetz explains his concept as follows: “I thought to myself that if I could get Orthodox children at the highest level to stay here, we could build something great.”

competitor In the past, top Orthodox players turned to Israel when they didn’t want to choose between Shabbat and a team. Now they can also be discovered among the Maccabees. The competition is impressed. “The guys at Yeshiva are more mature than the average college basketball team,” says Kevin Spann, who coached St. Joseph’s College Long Island for a long time.

Yeshiva University has long adorned itself with its sporting offer. At the end of August, however, the positive image was in jeopardy. A student had publicly accused a member of the successful basketball team of rape. And she accused the university management in the newspaper “Forward” of not having done anything about it out of consideration for the sporting successes. She did not give the name of the accused out of consideration for a confidentiality agreement. The status of the investigation is unknown.

In the 1930s there were still arguments about “whether athletes really fit in with the men of the Torah,” as the historian Peter Levine writes. His book Ellis Island to Ebbets Field is the standard work on Jews in US sports. And they have always been present in basketball. In the 1930s, the sport was sometimes even referred to as “Jewball”, which was usually not meant in a friendly way. When the then professional league Basketball Association of America, forerunner of the NBA, started 75 years ago, it was a Jewish player who scored the first point: Ossie Schectman of the New York Knickerbockers. So Ryan Turell and Gabriel Leifer have great role models that they want to build on.

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