Small school, small team, big values

In early November, Yeshivat Kadimah High School’s basketball team participated in the Cooper Invitational, an annual basketball tournament for Jewish high schools, held  in Memphis.

By Ethan Fine, Freshman, Eureka High School

Yeshivat Kadimah High School is a small school with big values. With roughly 30 students in the entire school, the students are able to bond through a variety of activities. One of these activities, which is relatively popular, is basketball. 

The Kadimah Chargers, coached by David Roberts, is a team of 10 boys. With nearly one third of the school being on this team, the players spend a lot of time not just playing basketball, but making lifelong friends. 

“You have these built-in, shared values with your teammates,” Roberts said. “There’s less of the period of everybody trying to blend together, because you already kind of are together.”

Roberts has been coaching for 12 years and has watched many classmates become teammates.  He has seen his players put forth all of their spare time to not just win a game, but to win something bigger. 

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Michael Oberlander, father of Eitan Oberlander, a forward for the Chargers, said: “It’s a place for them to be able to live out their religious values, in all aspects of their life, including in their extracurricular and their competitive athletic lives as well.”

Students start a typical day of classes at 8 a.m. and end their classes at 4:45 p.m. The Chargers practice once or twice a week and have a game at least once a week. 

The team went to a tournament in Memphis, Tenn., in early November. The tournament, the Cooper Invitational, is hosted annually by Margolin Hebrew Academy and brings in 15 teams from around the country to play. 

“The experience was very rewarding,” said senior Shay Fishman, a guard for the Chargers. “I was a part of something bigger, like I was representing the Jewish community in St. Louis.”

Basketball was not the center of the tournament, however. Shay described it as being centered around Shabbat and Torah. Players from each team would give words from that week’s Torah portion. Shay was lucky enough to have this honor. 

“We don’t just play together. We motivate each other, pray together, learn together,” he explained. “There’s a unique bond that was put together because of our identity: Judaism.”

Even though the Chargers lost all four of their games at the Cooper Invitational, team members realized that there was much more to the tournament than basketball. They also met friends from different states and schools, studied Torah, and bonded as a team and as a community. 

“Most of the other teams belong to a school with hundreds of boys, so the fact that we can even compete is pretty incredible,” Shay said.

The Yeshivat Kadimah Chargers don’t dedicate their time and effort to being the best team, statistically. Instead, they hold higher standards, revolving around friendship, hard work and turning boys into men, all while maintaining a Jewish foundation. 

 “They’re simply playing because they love being able to play as a team with their friends,” Oberlander said.  

Shay said the team is about more than just basketball and winning. Instead, the players focus on their friendships and redefine Judaism.

“It’s more than basketball, it’s more than winning, it’s not getting beat,” Shay said. “Kadimah brought us a passion to fight together and to pick each other up. That’s what Judaism’s all about.”

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