The Jewish Sport Report: Two top US college basketball teams are in Israel right now


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Good afternoon! Gymnastics legend Simone Biles returned to competition last weekend for the first time since she withdrew from the Tokyo Olympics — and she performed to Israeli pop star Noa Kirel’s “Unicorn,” a song that came in third place in this year’s Eurovision contest.

“She made history and she’s amazing and it’s so moving to me because she really exemplifies the values that this song represents,” Kirel said in a Hebrew video message to Israeli media. “This is one of the wildest things that has ever happened to me.”

Arizona and Kansas State’s men’s basketball teams are touring Israel right now

Team photo

The University of Arizona men’s basketball team at a tour of the City of David in Jerusalem. (Courtesy of Athletes for Israel)

Two of the country’s top collegiate basketball teams, Arizona and Kansas State, have embarked on a 10-day trip to Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

Organized by the nonprofit Athletes for Israel, the program is an expansion of the “Birthright for College Basketball” trip that Auburn players experienced last summer. Adding the UAE to the itinerary was a step toward realizing the organizers’ dream of creating a trip modeled after the Abraham Accords, the series of normalization agreements between Israel and neighboring Arab countries.

Auburn coach Bruce Pearl, who was involved in planning this summer’s trip, is accompanying the teams on their flight from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi, to “feel very much a part of the Abraham Accords,” he told me. Pearl said his goal is to create a full “Abraham Accords Cup” with teams from the United States, Israel and Arab countries.

While in Israel, the teams will play an Israeli Select Team that will include NBA G Leaguer Ryan Turell (more on him below).

Read more about the teams’ Middle East tour right here.

Halftime report

HISTORY IN GERMANY. Makkabi Berlin, a sports club founded by Holocaust survivors, is about to become the first Jewish team to compete in the German Cup, the annual tournament featuring 64 of Germany’s top soccer teams. They face the Bundesliga’s Wolfsburg on Sunday.

PEDAL TO THE METAL. Israeli-Canadian billionaire and philanthropist Sylvan Adams won the world championship in the 65-69 age group at the 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships in Scotland last weekend. He has been a key supporter of cycling in Israel.

THAT’S AMAR’E. The Phoenix Suns are retiring the number of former star Amar’e Stoudemire, who converted to Judaism and played professionally in Israel.

BIG DILL. A couple weeks ago, we reported on the growing popularity of pickleball at Jewish summer camp. America’s fastest-growing sport is also a huge hit at JCCs across the country — and this Sunday in Park City, Utah, there’s even a “Kosher Dills” Jewish pickleball tournament.

HANK READ-BERG. A new kid’s book about Jewish baseball legend Hank Greenberg, called “Hank on First!: How Hank Green­berg Became a Star On and Off the Field,” tells the story of the Hall of Famer’s courage as he overcame antisemitism to become one of the best hitters in baseball history.

Ryan Turell’s story hits the big screen

Ryan Turell, the Jewish basketball player who wears a kippah on the court, dribbles in a scene in “Destination NBA: A G League Odyssey.” (Courtesy of Prime Video)

Ryan Turell, the former Yeshiva University standout who is now playing in the NBA’s G League, is prominently featured in a new documentary that debuted on Amazon Prime this week.

“Destination NBA: A G League Odyssey,” produced by The Ringer and the Tom Brady-cofounded sports documentary outfit called, apropos for Turell, Religion of Sports, follows a number of G League players who are at various stages of their basketball careers.

Turell is shown in the film saying the Hanukkah blessings, signing kippahs for fans and describing one particular basketball move as “The Spinning Dreidel.”

“I want to be a Jewish hero,” Turell says at one point in the documentary.

Read more about the new sports doc here.

Jews in sports to watch this weekend


Oakland Athletics rookie Zack Gelof has been on fire since his callup — in his first 22 MLB games, the Team Israel alum has 21 hits, 15 runs scored and 6 homers. The A’s face the Washington Nationals this weekend. Alex Bregman, who has 18 homers on the year, and the Houston Astros host the Los Angeles Angels in an AL West showdown.


The new English Premier League season kicks off this weekend. Catch Israeli star Manor Solomon with his new club Tottenham on Sunday at 9 a.m. ET against Brentford. U.S. men’s national team goalie Matt Turner has joined Nottingham Forest after a stint as Arsenal’s backup. Turner is expected to see more playing time with his new club and could possibly win the starting role. Those two teams face off Saturday at 7:30 a.m. ET.


Max Homa is in Memphis this weekend for the FedEx St. Jude Championship. Ben Silverman, who is currently tied for second in the PGA’s Korn Ferry Tour, is at the Pinnacle Bank Championship in Omaha.

The JCC Maccabi Games wrap up a summer of competition in Israel and Florida

Ukraine delegation at JCC Maccabi Games

(Courtesy of JCC Association of North America)

The JCC Maccabi Games, which were held this summer in both Israel and Florida, brought together thousands of Jewish teen athletes, including a delegation from Ukraine, shown here at the opening ceremony in Fort Lauderdale. (Courtesy of JCC Association of North America)

“Today’s JCC Maccabi athletes are tomorrow’s Jewish leaders, and during the summer of 2023, we focused on building a true sense of belonging, understanding, and connection to Israel and the Jewish people for thousands of teen athletes,” said Samantha Cohen, the senior vice president for program and talent at the JCC Association and the head of JCC Maccabi.

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