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About the Center for Sport and Jewish Life

The Center for Sport and Jewish Life is an independent initiative whose mission is to strengthen Jewish identity and Jewish community bonds by bringing to light the common journey and values found in sport and in Judaism. Of particular focus are Ahavat Torah (an affinity for Jewish learning/living) and Ahavat Israel (loyalty to the Jewish people).

Among the Center's initiatives are:

  • T [Star of David] E [Star of David] A [Star of David] M (Teaching Everybody About Mitzvot), a curriculum designed for youth sport settings, including schools, summer camps and recreational sports programs. This curriculum, drawn on initiatives sponsored by the USTA, the PGA and the NFL, incorporates attention to values and life skills (e.g. team work, goal setting, respect for others, honor in competition) alongside Jewish values (Jewish peoplehood, gemillut hasadim) in the course of sport skill mastery and league competition. To learn more about T*E*A*M for your sports setting, click here.
  • Association of Jewish Student Athletes, a support network for Jewish student athletes, focusing on creating ties between peers, mentoring, social and social service programs.
  • “Get in the Game”, an Israel-based program promoting character development and teaching life-skills to at-risk youth
  • Annual “Sport and Jewish Life” Essay Contest

Founding director of the Center for Sport and Jewish Life is Rabbi Mitchell Smith, who is certified by the Association for Applied Sport Psychology as a Sport Psychology Consultant.  He has worked with athletes, teams and coaches throughout the United States, Israel, and internationally, and serves as Director of Sport Psychology Services at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, FL.

The president of the Center's Board of Directors is Burton Siegel, the Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Philadelphia.

Vice President is Dr. Edward Leibowitz, Associate Boys Basketball Coach, St. Patrick's High School, Elizabeth, NJ, and author of "It Takes More Than a Whistle to Coach Basketball".

Serving as Honorary Presidents of the Board are Alan H. (Bud) Selig, Commissioner of Major League Baseball, and Ralf Klein, Legendary Head Coach of Maccabi Tel Aviv Basketball and 2006 Israel Prize Laureate.

Serving on the Center's Advisory Board are:

Chad Baruch, Athletic Director, Yavneh Academy, Dallas TX [Star of David] Ben Braun, Head Men’s Basketball Coach, Rice University  [Star of David] Herb Brown, Assistant Coach, Atlanta Hawks [Star of David] Rabbi Elliot Dorff, Ph. D., Rector, University of Judaism [Star of David] Bernie Fine, Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach, Syracuse University [Star of David] Steve Flisler, student-athlete, University of Pennsylvania [Star of David] Tim Green, author, Fox Sports NFL Analyst and former player, Atlanta Falcons [Star of David] Aviva Kempner, Film Director, The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg [Star of David] Fred Kipperman, Rand Corporation [Star of David] Lenny Krayzelburg, 4-time Olympic gold medalist [Star of David] Rabbi Harold Kushner, best-selling author [Star of David] Dr. Richard Lapchick, Executive Director, National Consortium for Academics and Sports [Star of David] Brent Novoselsky, former player, Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears [Star of David] Josh Pastner, Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach, University of Arizona [Star of David] Rabbi Arnold Rachlis, past president, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association [Star of David] Dr. Daniel Rosenberg, Chairman,  Department of Physical Education, Brock University [Star of David] David Schafer, Executive Director, Florida Holocaust Museum [Star of David] Herb Sendek, Head Men’s Basketball Coach, Arizona State University [Star of David] Alex Smolka, Track and Cross Country Coach, Florida Atlantic University [Star of David] Dr. Judy Van Raalte, President, Exercise and Sport Psychology Division, American Psychological Association [Star of David] Bill Van Zyll, Director and General Manager, Ninteno/ Latin America [Star of David] Alan Veingrad, former player, Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys [Star of David] Dr. Robert Weinberg, Professor, Department of Physical Education and Sport Studies, Miami University [Star of David] Dr. David Yukelson, Coordinator of Sport Psychology Services, Penn State University

Quote from Genesis 32: 25-29
Having fled from his home and an angry brother 20 years earlier, Jacob (whose name derives from “heel” and implies “deceit”, for Jacob had deceived his brother of his birthright) returned home as an adult to face his past. The night before he and his brother would meet, bracing himself for the unknown, Jacob faced his own fears, in the form of the divine figure with whom he wrestled. He emerged from that encounter a better man, a stronger man – no longer the heel Jacob but now called Israel, the name which he would pass on to future generations. Israel – to strive to be the best we can….Israel – determined to prevail, even when the odds seem against us. In life and in sport, it is the striving against our own selves that is the truest test of our abilities and of our character, the best measure of what we can accomplish. And if, in this striving, we have – like Jacob – a secure sense of who we are, and facing life’s uncertainties, we are willing to give our full effort, then we, too, shall surely prevail.
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