Twelve girls basketball teams representing 12 yeshiva middle schools throughout the tri-state area participated this past Sunday, December 8, in the 2019 Yashar LaChayal Girls Basketball Tournament, where 200 players and coaches came together at the Felman Athletic Center on the campus of RYNJ in River Edge.
Participating girls schools included: Bruriah, HAFTR, HALB, Magen David Yeshivah, Manhattan Day School, Moriah, Ramaz, RYNJ, Shulamith School for Girls, Westchester Day School, Yeshivah of Flatbush and Yeshiva Har Torah.
This event was more than just a basketball tournament. Judah and Carol Rhine, directors of the Hoops for Heroes campaign, launched this project several months ago. They visited each school and met with all the players of each basketball team. They educated the student athletes and raised awareness about Yashar LaChayal, Straight to the Soldier, an organization based in Israel, which gives the soldiers “what they need when they need it.”
Each of the players was given a personal fundraising page and they took on the initiative to raise funds for the Hoops for Heroes Tournament project. The funding will provide for basketball hoops on army bases throughout Israel to allow the soldiers recreation and respite during their break time from their official on-duty responsibilities.
Upon arrival, every participating player and coach received a special IDF cinch sack with the Yashar LaChayal logo and a bracelet displaying “I support the IDF.”
At the opening of the morning and afternoon tournaments, Nir Sinai, who came from Israel representing Yashar LaChayal, and herself a member of the IDF, spoke to the girls, praising them for all their efforts. A specific army unit was assigned to each school. Nir distributed to each team the corresponding flag of that unit as follows:
Shulamith – The Caracal Battalion
RYNJ – Gedud Lavi Unit
Bruriah – Arayot Hayarden Unit
WDS – Shirion Tank Unit
YOF – Iron Dome Unit
Ramaz – Pikud Haoref Unit
MDY – Nachal Unit
Moriah – Magav Unit
HALB – Tzanchanim Unit
HAFTR – Golanit Unit
YHT – Totachanim Unit
MDS – Handasah Kravit Unit
The players signed and wrote messages to the chayalim on their unit flags. Those flags will be brought back to Israel and given out to those army units to show our support for them and for their dedication in defending the State of Israel. It was quite an incredible scene to see all the teams gather together on the basketball court at the same time, holding their unit’s flag.
Following this opening ceremony, the games began. The morning and afternoon tournaments began with each team playing a preliminary game. Matchups were set up to enable teams to play teams that they would not play during their leagues’ regular season. These games were followed by the opening round games, which were single elimination. The teams came ready to play and were excited to take to the courts. The players played hard and put in a lot of effort, leaving everything on the court. The enthusiasm and team spirit were quite evident at every game with a lot of spontaneous cheering and clapping that could be heard throughout the gym. Excellent sportsmanship prevailed during and after the games displayed by both the players and their coaches.
In the morning semi-finals, MDY defeated HALB to advance to the championship game against RYNJ. The championship game was competitive and in the end RYNJ proved to be too strong and they emerged victorious as champions. In the afternoon tournament semi-finals, Moriah defeated HAFTR to advance to the championship game against Ramaz. Ramaz started off strong from the beginning and maintained their lead until the final buzzer when they were crowned champions.
Following the championships, the trophy ceremonies featured each member of the winning teams receiving a championship medal with the Yashar LaChayal logo. RYNJ and Ramaz each received a team championship trophy that they will proudly display at their schools.
Each coach selected an All Star player who received a special Hoops for Heroes All Star medal:
Shoshana Pinsker, Bruriah
Sari Gross, Shulamith School for Girls
Lauren Nagler, Yeshiva Har Torah
Kayla Goldberg, HALB
Merle Kassab, MDY
Abbi Kammerman, HAFTR
Elianna Mann, Westchester Day School
Jen Oved, Yeshivah of Flatbush
Imma Solomon, MDS
Hadar Ohring, Moriah
In conjunction with the tournament, the Hoops for Heroes mega raffle featured many prizes, graciously donated to help support the mission of Yashar LaChayal:
MVP Camps Free camp tuition for 2020 MVP Boys or MVP Girls; Two U.S. Open Tickets 2020 donated by Jonathan and Robyn Katz; Two Knicks Tickets donated by Nathan Dweck; Judaica Plus, Cedarhurst - $100 gift card; Traditions, Lawrence - $100 gift card; Mike’s Burgers, Cedarhurst - $100 gift certificate; Crawfords, Cedarhurst - $50 gift certificate; Essen NY Deli, Brooklyn - $50 gift card; Schnitzi Bar, Brooklyn - $50 gift card; Grill Point, Queens - $50 gift certificate; Sammy’s Bagels, Teaneck, - $50 gift card; Teaneck Doghouse, Teaneck - $50 gift card; Oh! Nuts, Brooklyn - $25 gift card PLUS Soy Sauce, Queens - $18 gift card; Carlos & Gabby’s/Graze, Queens - $36 gift card; Eichlers, Brooklyn - “Variations” by Danielle Silver; Dougies BBQ, Teaneck - $25 gift card.
According to Judah and Carol, “There was a great display of achdus throughout the day, amongst all the players, coaches and fans. The players had an opportunity to socialize with old and new friends. This special tournament gives these students the opportunity to play competitive basketball on the court, and to serve as ambassadors, off the court, to promote the work of Yashar LaChayal and all it provides for the IDF. Special thanks to all the tournament basketball court sponsors for their generous donations and for showing their support and gratitude for the chayalim. Special hakarat hatov and many thanks to all the schools, players, coaches, athletic directors, principals, parents, administrators, families and friends who helped make this event a huge success to benefit Yashar LaChayal. Plans are already in the works for Yashar LaChayal 2020!”
This coming Sunday, December 15, the 2019 Boys Yashar LaChayal Yeshiva Middle School Basketball Tournament will be held at DRS in the Five Towns.