I recently went to the Wells Fargo Center to watch some kids play a pickup game of basketball. It was not your typical basketball game, however, but not because the kids were playing on the home court of the Philadelphia 76ers. This was a game involving students from the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy in Bryn Mawr and the Al Aqsa Islamic Academy in Philadelphia. It was also the bar mitzvah project of Ari Abramovitz, a middle-school student at Barrack.
Kids got together to play ball. The kids played on mixed teams — so this was not a competition between schools or even religions. It was a pickup game of basketball, one that attracted the attention of the local media.
I met Ari and his mom, Meirav, and chatted about how amazing Ari’s project was. I then spoke with my friend Rabbi Neil Cooper, senior rabbi at Ari’s synagogue, Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El, about this extraordinary achievement.
And it was an extraordinary achievement indeed. No, the kids did not create world peace, nor did they resolve any of the Mid-East conflicts. They played basketball together. They met each other on the court to play, and then, perhaps, to talk and begin the process of getting to know one another. This is one of the most amazing things that we can do — play together, talk together, see an opportunity for a relationship with someone that we had not considered before.
It is ironic that the kids played on the court without problems, but persistent condensation issues — caused by humidity from the ice rink below the court — forced the professionals to cancel their game for that evening. What might the message be in this?
I can only hope the game organized by Ari has legs, that the conversations that began on the court continue. Ari’s mom told me that her daughter’s bat mitzvah project in two years would be another such game. We can only pray that the message of coming together continues both on and off the court and that we do everything we can to support it.
Mazal Tov, Ari, on your bar mitzvah and on this wonderful event!