Paul L. Caron

Sunday, January 23, 2022

WSJ Op-Ed: Yeshiva University, The Jewish College Basketball Powerhouse

Wall Street Journal Op-Ed:  Yeshiva University, the Jewish College Basketball Powerhouse, by Ari Berman (President, Yeshiva University):

Yeshiva MaccabeesThe Jewish people can take pride in collective accomplishments across a range of human endeavors. I never imagined that basketball would be one of them, but it’s not the only thing that’s taken me by surprise since I became president of Yeshiva University four years ago.

As 2021 came to an end, so did our Division III basketball team’s remarkable 50-game winning streak. ... When I took this job, I anticipated celebrating student success in rabbinics, law, the humanities, business, tech and science. I never expected the energy and excitement of presiding over a sports powerhouse. For the past few years, I have watched game after game in which young men with great Jewish pride score basket after basket. It is beautiful and breathtaking to see their graceful play and teamwork in action.

Many have asked me if I think these wins are an act of divine intervention. This is the wrong question. As a rabbi—as a Jew, for that matter—I believe that everything in life involves divine intervention coupled with human agency. Even losing. The right question is: How could a small research university produce such a team? ...

Our aspiration is to advance a more just and moral society with compassion and kindness. In the spirit of the prophets, we teach our children that faith shapes their character, helps them endure hardships, and galvanizes them to redeem the world. We try to live up to these ideals, which continue to guide us daily. ...

[T]his team, the Maccabees, inspires so many. It’s not only that they win but how they win. They play with sportsmanship and selflessness. They rise early in the morning and practice late at night, fitting basketball into a daily regimen that includes a dual curriculum of academic and Torah studies. Against seemingly all odds, they set as their goal to win the National College Athletic Association championship. And they know that by playing for Yeshiva University, they represent not just a school but a people. ...

Our history has taught us a lot about resilience and adaptability. It has infused us with a set of values that gives us an enduring mission and purpose. In Hebrew, the root of the word for victory is the same as the word for eternity. By playing for eternity, we always walk off the court as champions.

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