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March 15, 2017 6:34 am

Basketball’s ‘Jewish Jordan’ Runs Summer Camp

avatar by Jeffrey Barken / JNS.org

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Tamir Goodman (left) and NBA forward Omri Casspi Photo: Tamir Goodman.

Tamir Goodman (left) and NBA forward Omri Casspi Photo: Tamir Goodman.

JNS.org – For years, Jewish basketball aficionados have adored Tamir Goodman. The same can now be said for Jewish summer campers.

Goodman, who was nicknamed the “Jewish Jordan” by Sports Illustrated in 1999 for his on-court prowess and his observance of Orthodox rituals, earned the respect of his teammates and fans alike during his career. After storied runs in both high school and college, Goodman played professional basketball in Israel before a knee injury forced him to retire.

Since then, Goodman has worked as a coach and a motivational speaker. In 2013, he published his memoir, The Jewish Jordan’s Triple Threat. His most recent project is the Jerusalem-based basketball camp that he founded in 2016. This intensive sports camp hosts 30-40 boys, ages 13-17, who train for two weeks in the world-class facilities located at Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Lerner Campus. The campers receive expert instruction from professional basketball players, and also soak up the spiritual vibrancy of Jerusalem.

Initially, the program was only available for day campers. But in 2017, students will have the opportunity to stay overnight in affiliated accommodations located in southern Jerusalem’s Baka neighborhood. And this year, Goodman hopes to blend a unique element of cultural immersion and spirituality into the basketball lessons.

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“There’s something majestic about Jerusalem, it’s a city that unites,” Goodman told JNS.org. “We’re excited to help them reach their potential on and off the court, and to connect them to Israel.”

Goodman has devised a rigorous training course for the camp. Each day, drills and discussions will be structured around an educational theme. Guest speakers will illuminate game theory, and then the group will scrimmage before breaking for lunch.

In the afternoon, the course is repeated. When day campers depart, the overnight campers will participate in charity events, bowling and other evening activities. “Basketball is much more than being in a gym these days. You really need to know how to take care of your body,” Goodman says. He has enlisted nutritionists to impart eating, sleeping and other lifestyle skills at the camp.

The campers are predominately observant Jews, but Goodman pushes back on the notion that the camp is only for religious athletes. “The message is not to let society dictate what you can or cannot do in this world.”

But, he says, religion will play a strong role in the camp experience — and of course, Shabbat will be a day of rest. “We really want the players to connect to Shabbat in a unique way,” Goodman says. “After working so hard all week on their bodies, it will be nice to spend some time working on their spirit.”

Donna Cohen, whose 13-year-old son Itamar participated in the program last year and is returning this summer, gave JNS.org a parent’s perspective on the experience.

“When you are looking for a high-level sports camp that has professional coaches, you are going to pay a bit more than a regular camp. But I feel that what the kids get out of [those] two weeks will carry them through the entire year,” Cohen said. She also praised Goodman’s ability to “hone in on a player’s strengths and challenges, and to push them to reach new potential that they never thought possible.”

Her son Itamar echoes that assessment. “Through the camp, I feel improved both mentally and physically,” he says. “Playing with others who are better and older made it challenging and gave me the opportunity to improve.”

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