Before the ADL and JIDF put a hit out on me, I am Jewish. I know for a fact that I can’t play basketball. You could make good money by wagering that I could not hold a dribble from one end of the court to the other completely unguarded. If I told any team that I was not going to play on the Sabbath, the laughing wouldn’t stop until sundown of that next Friday. Is this the Jewish curse? If there were basketball courts in the time of Moses would we have been doomed to play hoops for 40 years rather than wander through the desert? Would Rameses have said “not only will I not let your people go but you can’t drive to the hoop?”
There are many of the Jewish faith who play basketball. Local Jewish Community Center and and B’nai Brith leagues are full of great “J Hopes”. While I know we are certainly represented in European basketball the pickings are slim here in the USA. Are there any Jews even currently playing in the NBA? (David Stern and Mark Cuban don’t count). I did some research and I was able to find the following Jews currently playing in the NBA:
Jordan Farmer of the Los Angeles Lakers. Jordon played just over 20 minutes a game last year averaging 9.1 ppg. Not to bad for a tribal representative. He however will not be getting any simchas for his 3 point shot or lackluster free throw percentage. A little Kabbalah string serenity may help on the line or in the alternative an affair with Madonna. In fairness to the Jordan and the other chosen, there are noteworthy Jewish NBA ballers going back through history. It appears however that we are much more adept at owning sports franchises than playing for them.
You are not going to see too many conservative or orthodox Jews playing in professional sports. If the guy sucks it’s no big deal but if he is any good and observant, he is not going to be that amenable to helping the team out from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday. Moral of story. If you are going to recruit a Jew, be sure he/she is a reform or have your designated gentile for play those big Sabbath games.
It is actually not all that uncommon to read about Jews missing big weekend games due to observance of the Sabbath. Now and then there is controversy. You have the competing interests of the schools, fans, teammates all of which put an enormous amount of pressure on those with strong religious convictions. There was a recent controversy involving a Jewish high school basketball team who refused to play a championship game on the Sabbath. The Herzl/Rocky Mountain Hebrew Academy team ultimately never had to face the religous dilemma. They fell one win short of qualifying for the championship game. The governing body had however already ruled against them so they would have forfeited the game had they advanced.
I actually found just this subject discussed on the website ABOUT.COM. The question was whether Conservative Jews can participate in sports on the Sabbath. Here was the answer give by Rabbi Barry Dove Lerner:
“Thanks for writing. First, I encourage you to speak with your Rabbi about this matter and other matters of Jewish law.
Please understand that I share your own sense of the importance of sports. In high school and college I participated in sports and I am still – to the best of my knowledge – the only Rabbi ordained in North America to have held a national championship and record in a NCAA sport – archery! And I taught archery at Camps Ramah for seven years to literally hundreds of campers of all ages. I encourage the children to both get involved with their school teams AND to respect Jewish holidays and Shabbat. So I share your enthusiasm for the self-discipline, the physical fitness, etc. that sports participation can bring one..
However, please understand that Conservative Judaism as such will not invalidate Shabbat and Jewish law simply to facilitate our wants and desires. Family activities are wonderful, but I would start now to begin to offer alternatives before the real confrontation between parents and children might arise. Lastly, once again, turn to your Rabbi for advice and guidance on what is and what is not appropriate for your children within the community programs.”
Ah yes, that is the ticket to the future for all Jewish athletes. ARCHERY! There is your answer. Excel in archery and the Sabbath is yours! You can pretty much put an arrow in something any day of the week so why sweat the weekend. He talks about offering alternatives to your children. The next Jewish Pele?
As The Good Book Says… ” Tis better to own to than to dribble”
I think I need to pull out my Fiddler On The Roof DVD to get some guidance from Tevye on this.
SO LET IT BE WRITTEN, SO LET IT BE DONE!