While the basketball competition was tough, Atlanta Jewish Academy assistant coach Neil Kalnitz said, players bonded off the court and were menches with each other.
The David Tanzman Memorial Tournament returned to Farber Hebrew Day School in Southfield this year after a one-year absence caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the unexpected layoff, the tournament was a slam dunk.
Players on six basketball teams from small Jewish high schools of less than 100 students competed, socialized with new and old friends, and ate meals and spent Shabbos together over four busy days during a weekend in early March.
Here are some rave reviews of the fourth annual tournament, named for a Farber school founder and basketball fan and organized mainly by Farber students:
“Fantastic camaraderie, a model for sportsmanship, a feel good event, as positive an experience as we hoped, and it brought the Farber community together,” said Farber head of school Josh Levisohn.
“The tournament went amazingly well. I’m so happy we had it,” said Farber basketball player Aaron Adler, a tournament co-commissioner, who praised Naomi Gardin, Farber’s administrative assistant, for her work “single-handedly” organizing meals for the players.
“All the teams had a great time,” said Avi Selesny, also a Farber basketball player and a tournament co-commissioner.
This was the first time the Atlanta Jewish Academy competed in the tournament.
AJA assistant coach Neil Kalnitz said he was “tremendously impressed” with how Farber organized the tournament, and AJA players were still talking about the good time they had several days after returning home.
“The Farber community was very welcoming,” Kalnitz said.
“We normally stay in a hotel when we travel for a tournament and don’t interact much with the host community.
“This time, all of our players and coaches stayed with host families, which was great (there were 22 host families).”
While the basketball competition was tough, Kalnitz said, players bonded off the court and were menches with each other.
Fuchs Mizrachi School from Cleveland won the tournament for the third time in four years. Rabbi Avery Joel, head of school, was the team’s chaperone this year.
“The basketball in the tournament is always challenging. It pushes us to the limit,” he said. “But while competitive basketball is the focus of the tournament, the tone always is an opportunity for each player to connect with the other players and grow as a person.”
Farber went 3-1 in its four tournament games and finished in third place.
After an exciting 43-40 victory over Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh and a 55-47 win over Columbus Torah Academy, Farber fell 60-34 to Atlanta.
That set up the third-place game against Pittsburgh, and Farber won the rematch 45-41.
Farber overcame an 18-point deficit to beat Pittsburgh in the teams’ first meeting.
“That game was intense,” Selesny said. “Our crowd was amazing that night. There was a mosh pit celebration on the floor after the game.”
Fuchs Mizachi defeated Atlanta 47-31 in the tournament championship game. Columbus defeated Denver 41-37 in the fifth-place game.
Tournament all-stars were Ari Jacoby (Fuchs Mizrachi), Noah Kalnitz (Atlanta), Adler (Farber), Noam Azagury (Pittsburgh), Yaki Liebesman (Columbus) and Izzy Potestio (Denver).
The tournament MVP was Ephraim Blau from Fuchs Mizrachi, who impressed fans with not only his dunking, but his post-game ritual of hugging opposing players and thanking his parents.
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Tournament Skills Competition Winners
Hot spot — Yisrael Attali and Avi Selesny (Farber).
Shooting stars — Steven Brenis (Fuchs Mizrachi).
3-point shootout — Netenal Jacobs (Fuchs Mizrachi).