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By Ethan Kellen, Special to the Winnipeg Jewish Report

A group of Jewish students at the University of Winnipeg had the privilege to hear from and have lunch with former Jewish basketball star and role model, Tamir Goodman, whose visit here was sponsored by Chabad-Lubavitch.

Goodman’s basketball career is a story of struggle, perseverance, success and inspiration.
“ From our biggest challenges, we attain our biggest blessings,” Goodman, who grew up in  an orthodox Jewish home in  Baltimore, told the students.


Goodman, who began playing basketball at age five, exploded onto the basketball scene in junior high school, when playing for the Talmudical Academy of Baltimore. His basketball achievements would soon land him the title “The Jewish Jordan”. After being scouted, her was offered a full scholarship to the  Universtiy of Maryland, but  could not accept the offer, as practices and games were scheduled on Erev Shabbat and Shabbat.

"I was on the front page of the Washington Post for eleven days in a row! For eleven days, the President of the United States was reading about me, some teenage Jewish basketball player who will not play on Saturdays," he recalled..?

It was out of the question for Goodman to comprise his Jewish obligations. As he said, “The Torah is the guidebook for our lives. It teaches from how to wake up in the morning, telling us which brachot are said on certain foods, to how to treat other people. It is the most important tool we have to use to make sure we live meaningful Jewish lives" 

 He later accepted a full athletic scholarship for  the 2001-2002 season at Towson University. The basketball program at Towson re-arranged its whole schedule just to accommodate Goodman’s religious obligations.

In the summer of 2002, Goodman moved to Israel to play professional basketball in 2002, and completed his mandatory service in the Israeli Defense .Unfortunately, he was plagued with injuries and traded several times while in Israel. He decided to leave Israel in 2007 to play for the Maryland Nighthawks (a different Maryland team, not the University of Maryland team).

Goodman signed with Maccabi Haifa In July of 2008, but retired in September of 2009 and now devotes his time to his organization, Haifa Hoops for Kids, which raises money for underprivileged youth in Israel to participate in basketball programs and attend basketball games.  As he explained, his organization revolves around the important Jewish value of tzedakah and helping those who are less fortunate.

Goodman  emphasized the Jewish value of taking your talents, and applying them to help other people, thereby fulfilling the Mitzvah of Ve’Ahavta Le’Rehacha Kamocha, (Loving Your Nreighbor As Yourself) as well as strengthening your relationship with G-d. He stated that all Jews, no matter how observant, are always connected with G-d, and that every Mitzvah a person does, whether it be wearing Tefillin every morning or lighting Shabbat candles every Friday night, enhances a person’s connection with G-d.

"How you view the world is important. Looking at the world with a Jewish perspective gives a much clearer view, rather than seeing the world as society dictates us to," Goodman said?         Goodman  emphasized the notion that “ life is full of challenges presented to us by G-d,” and that if we put one hundred percent effort into what we do and take small steps to grow in our Jewish identity, we will know true success----success being defined not only as material success but  success in relationships with G-d, friends and family; and success in leading a meaningful Jewish life to the best of  one’s abilities.

Prior to his presentation at the University of Winnipeg,  Goodman spent the morning at the Gray Academy speaking to the students and running basketball clinics. Goodman made another presentation in the evening at the South End Chabad Centre. Even being a retired athlete is hectic and busy!

Ethan Kellen is a third year student in the Kinesiology and Applied Health program at the University of Winnipeg. Photos for this article are by Ethan Kellan  or courtesy of Chabad-Lubavitch  of Winnipeg.

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