Yesterday I went to the Wells Fargo Center to watch some kids play a pick-up game of Basketball. It was not your typical basketball game, however, but not because they were playing on the home court of the Philadelphia 76ers. This was a game involving students from Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El in Wynnewood and the Al Aqsa Islamic Academy of North Philadelphia, the Bar Mitzvah project of a young man named Ari.
Kids got together to play ball. The kids played on blended teams. So this was not a competition between schools or even religions. It was a pickup game of basketball.
I met Ari and his mom, Meirav, and chatted about how amazing this was. I then spoke with my friend Rabbi Cooper, Senior Rabbi at Beth Hillel about this extraordinary achievement who was spending far more time teaching court-side than coaching.
It was an extraordinary achievement indeed. No, they did not create world peace nor did they resolve the Mid-East conflicts (any of them). They played basketball together and 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 we had not considered before.
It is ironic that the kids played on the court without problems, but persistent condensation issues afterward forced the professionals to cancel their game for that evening. What might the message be in this?
I can only hope this game has legs; that the conversations that began on the court yesterday continue. Meirav, 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 we do everything we can to support it.
Mazal Tov Ari, on your Bar Mitzvah and this wonderful event!
For those who did not see the press report, here is a link: