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September 17, 2021 11:56 am
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NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Calls Atonement, Repentance the ‘Foundation of Any Humane Civilization’ in Yom Kippur Message

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Photo: Screenshot.

NBA icon Kareem Abdul-Jabbar spoke about the important of atonement and repentance in a Yom Kippur message released after the end of the Jewish holiday on Thursday.

Speaking against a backdrop that featured the Jewish Star of David with the Hebrew word shalom in its center, the former professional basketball player called Yom Kippur “the holiest of Jewish holidays, because it asks believers to atone for their sins and seek repentance.”

He continued, “For me, atonement and repentance are the foundation of any humane civilization. Through prayer, meditation or simply self-reflection we admit our failings and try to do better. This is humanity at its noblest and our only hope for a just society.”

He concluded by wishing his Jewish friends a “g’mar chatima tova,” the customary Jewish greeting said during the period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

Abdul-Jabbar, who converted to Islam from Catholicism in 1971, played 20 seasons in the NBA for the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers. In July 2020, he denounced the lack of outrage against antisemitism in the sports and entertainment industries, and how it “perpetuates racism,” following incidents involving athletes and artists who made remarks that targeted Jews.

In 2017, he worked with Sam Grundwerg, then Israel’s consul general in Los Angeles, and hosted conversations between various Jewish and Muslim leaders to promote dialogue and mutual respect between local Jewish and Muslim communities. Grundwerg said that the former athlete has “a special sensitivity to antisemitism” because a close friend of his father’s was in a US tank division that liberated the Buchenwald concentration camp in 1945, imparting Abdul-Jabbar during his childhood with “first-hand memories of what can happen to Jews when no one speaks up for or stands with them.”

Abdul-Jabbar, who has visited Israel in the past, also co-authored the 2005 book “Brothers in Arms” about the US troops who liberated Nazi concentration camps at the end of World War II.

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