The ‘Jewish Jordan’ visits Ma’ayanot
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The ‘Jewish Jordan’ visits Ma’ayanot

Tamir Goodman spoke with Ma’ayanot’s basketball teams last week about life, basketball, and Judaism. Jake Fox

Even if you miss, always continue to shoot,” said Tamir Goodman as he displayed the sweet shot that earned him the ranking of the 25th best high school player in the country in 1998.

Goodman, who gained national recognition and the nickname the “Jewish Jordan” while starring at Baltimore’s Talmudic Academy, spoke at Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High school for Girls in Teaneck on Dec. 24. He gave a clinic to members of the school’s basketball teams and then spoke to the entire student body about his life and the importance of Judaism.

A member of the Macabbi Haifa Heat in the Israel Premier League, Goodman was concluding a goodwill tour in the United States to raise money for “Haifa Hoops for Kids,” a program run by the team to benefit underprivileged children in the Greater Haifa area.

“The only way to get better is to keep practicing,” Goodman stressed as he began the day in the school’s gymnasium running drills, giving tips, and constantly encouraging athletes from Ma’ayanot’s varsity and junior varsity teams.

The student-athletes were excited when they found out Goodman would be visiting their school and looked to his success for inspiration.

“When you’re in a yeshiva league, you never think you can play in college and take it past high school,” said Emma Rand, a 12th-grader and guard on the varsity team. “He did that, and it’s really inspirational.”

Goodman’s message, however, went beyond basketball. He believes he was blessed with his skills on the court to better the world.

“Each and every single person is very special and all of us have been created with a mission and a special talent that God entrusts us with,” he said. “It’s our job to take our talent and develop it to the utmost and sanctify God through it.”

Initially offered a scholarship to the University of Maryland, which has one of the country’s top basketball programs, Goodman declined it because he refused to play on Shabbat. He explained the situation as one of the many challenges he’s had to face.

“I call challenges springboards. HaShem only gives us challenges [for us] to overcome them.” Goodman continued, “Every time we overcome a challenge, we become better, or stronger, or have more faith.”

Unwilling to compromise his beliefs, Goodman nevertheless became the first Orthodox Jew to play Division I basketball, eventually accepting a scholarship to Towson University, which changed its entire basketball schedule to accommodate him.

“I think one of my major callings was not playing on Shabbos, breaking that door down so other kids would know that they don’t have to work or play on Shabbos,” Goodman said.

His faith and commitment were inspiring to the Ma’ayanot students. “He doesn’t just claim to be Jewish,” said 10th-grader Rivka Rosenblatt. “He’s active and abiding.”

“There’s no such thing as an unrealistic dream,” said 11th-grader Rena Levin, after listening to Goodman. “If I work hard enough I can accomplish my goals.”

Goodman concluded by saying, “Being Jewish is all-encompassing. We need to know HaShem in all of our ways and everything that we’re involved in. It’s not like you’re a basketball player and then you’re Jewish when you go to shul. It’s not two separate things; it’s all one thing.”

Twelfth-grader Naomi Koolyk took away from Goodman’s talk “the importance of maintaining Jewish identity … and that sticking to your beliefs will get you far.”

After taking questions from the students, Goodman signed autographs and took pictures with the students. “I love helping kids as much as possible, in any way, whether it’s helping them get a better jump shot or helping motivate them,” he said.

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