Rabbi sings anthem at Jewish heritage game

(JTA) — A Chabad rabbi belted out the national anthem at an NBA game in Miami as part of Jewish Heritage Night festivities.

Rabbi Yossi Lebovics, who is also a cantor and principal of the Chaya Aydel Seminary in Hallandale, Fla., presented "The Star-Spangled Banner" Wednesday night prior to the Heat-Pistons game at the American Airlines Arena.

Nearly 5,000 Jewish fans showed up for the second annual heritage celebration, which coincided with the first night of Chanukah.

Former Heat all-star Alonzo Mourning, now the team’s vice president of player development, helped philanthropist Guma Aguira light the shamash on a giant menorah at halftime. The lighting ceremony was followed by a concert featuring Dr. Laz and the Sensations, a band comprised of special-needs students from a nearby school.

Jewish Heritage Night has become a growing trend in professional sports, with basketball, baseball, hockey and soccer teams getting into the spirit nationwide.

Chanukah-themed Jewish heritage events coming up included the Portland Trail Blazers-Los Angeles Clippers basketball game Sunday in Oregon and the Florida Panthers-Colorado Avalanche hockey game Dec. 7 in Sunrise, Fla.

Among baseball teams, the San Francisco Giants, Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets have hosted Jewish heritage events. In basketball, the Jewish reggae performer Matisyahu performed last January in Philadelphia when the 76ers faced the New York Knicks. This season, the Kansas City Wizards soccer team hosted their first Jewish Heritage Day game.

Chabad rabbis usually organize such events as part of their self-proclaimed mission to publicize Jewish holidays and inspire Jewish pride.

“Basketball is filled with physical giants; Chanukah is all about spiritual giants,” said Rabbi Pinny Andrusier of Chabad of Southwest Broward, one of the prime movers of the Heat event.

Miami trounced Detroit, 97-72, which Heat broadcaster Eric Reed attributed to a blessing given privately to him by Andrusier.

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