For years, Jewish basketball aficionados have adored Tamir Goodman. The same can now be said for Jewish summer campers.
Nicknamed the “Jewish Jordan” by Sports Illustrated magazine in 1999 for the combination of his on-court prowess and his observance of Orthodox rituals despite a busy secular game schedule, Goodman earned the respect of his teammates and fans alike.
After a storied high school career, Maryland-born Goodman played for a decade between college (Towson University) and Israel’s professional basketball leagues before a knee injury forced him to hang up his jersey.
One of his crowning achievements to date is the Jerusalem-based basketball camp that he founded in 2016. This intensive sports camp invites a class of 30 to 40 boys, ages 13-17, to train for two weeks every summer in the world-class facilities located at Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Lerner Campus.
Campers receive expert instruction from professional players and soak up the spiritual vibrancy of the holy city.
The campers are predominately observant Jews, but Goodman pushes back on the notion that this is a camp specifically for religious athletes. Still, given his childhood and adolescent experiences as a camper, Goodman is well aware that having kosher food available, as well as a culture and schedule that accommodates religious priorities, removes the considerable social and logistical hurdles that campers otherwise face.
“We really want the players to connect to Shabbat in a unique way,” Goodman said. “After working so hard all week on their bodies, physically, 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 returned this summer, provides a parent’s perspective.
“Regarding the price, I feel that it is very fair,” she said. “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 two weeks will carry them through the entire year.”
Her son echoes that assessment.
“Playing with others who are better and older made it challenging and gave me the opportunity to improve.” Itamar said. JN