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July 11, 2014

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JULY 11, 2014 PAGE 11A communi By Bob Jacob Cleveland Jewish News The NationalBasketball Association's (NBA) Cleveland Cavaliers looked'near and far during a five-week stretch for a head coach, and they finally found their man--in Israel. David Blatt, who coached Maccabi Tel Aviv to the Eu- roleague and Israeli league basketball championships this year, struck a deal to become the 20th coach in the history of the Cavaliers. The selection was immedi- ately celebrated by basketball players Tamir Goodman and Mark Sack, both from the Cleveland area, and one of Blatt's former players, David Blu, who all know Blatt well. Goodman, who was dubbed the "Jewish Jordan" in high school by Sports Illustrated, was drafted by Blatt to play for Maccabi Tel Aviv in 2002, but wound up being traded before the season. "It's just absolutely incred- ible for the Jewish people and for Israel," Goodman, 32, told the Cleveland Jewish News on June 20. "It's a continuation of his successful career in Israel. I think sometimes people think being Jewish or being a proud Jew keeps you from reaching the highest level in YOUr career, but it's the exact opposite. He's a proud Jew and a proud Israeli, and he's been able to really show the world being a proud Jew and being proud from Israel is nothing to be ashamed of." Sack, who was a standout basketball player at Cleveland Heights High School and four-year starter at NCAA Division III Brandeis Uni- versity in Waltham, Mass., played against Blatt in Israel's professional league. They became close friends when they played together on the Israeli team that represented Israel in the World Univer- sity Games in Edmonton, Canada, in 1983. "David was a great point guard as a player who brought out the best in the players around him, and he does the same as a coach," said Sack, 55, in from Israel. "I believe he will help bring out the talent that the Cavs are putting together, and with an emphasis on 'team play,' Cleveland fans will enjoy the style and success of the team. "The fans will appreci- ate his intensity and his straightforwardness, but more importantly will enjoy the high level of teamwork and winning attitude of the play- ers as together they produce a 'winner' for the city." Blu, who played for the championship Maccabi Tel Aviv team, told the Cleveland Jewish News from his home in Los Angeles on June 20, "I'm extremely excited. This is a dream for David to have the opportunity to coach in America. He's certainly qualified to take on the chal- lenge. "I can't speak to much about the Gavs or the NBA because I never played in it, but in regards to David, he has the ability for success in the NBA. First of all, he's American. He's not like a Eu- ropean coming to coach in an American league. He's always had the ability to connectwith the American players on his team. He's always had the abil- ity to connect with the local players and foreign players." Goodman echoed Sacks's and Blu's sentiments. "He has a unique ability with his people skills and his basketball skills," Goodman said. "He has tremendous basketball IQ. He has great offensive strategies and de- fensive strategies. He's great at getting players to reach their potential on the court and off the court, and gives you the feeling that he cares about you off the court. "When I was as going to play college basketball, a good way to tell about a program is if players came back and were hanging out at college," said Goodman, who was recruited by the University of Maryland in C~oilege Park and ended up at nearby Towson State. "Every player who played for him expressed in the media how good he is. He's coached all over the world, in Turkey, in Russia, in Israel." Goodman said Blatt has been successful at handling diverse rosters. "Players who played for him come from diverse cultures and he's been able to mesh them, That's a big plus for him. He's got those incredible interpersonal skills," he said. "Another advantage is there -is more pressure to coach in Europe. You play fewer games. In the NBA, it's 82 games. In Europe, you play one or two games a week. There's no col- lege basketball in Europe. You could have a longtimeveteran who's 30 or 31 years old and literally have a 16-year-old on the bench. He has a lot of experience working with the age gap. "We're seeing a lot of college players who are one -and-done coming to the NBA," said Goodman, referring to players who play only one year of col- lege basketball before entering the NBA Draft. "He's used to dealing with younger players. If you look at the (San Antonio) Spurs, who won the (2014) cham- l~onship, other than Tim Duncan, it wasn't like they had big, big stars coming into the program. Coach Pop (Gregg Popovich) developed their skills to play as one unit. Coach Blatt is the same. He didn't have the most individu- ally talented players, but they came together as a unit. He has everything you hope for in a coach. Now he's coaching in the best league in the world." Blu, 33 and considered one "of the top Euroleague 3-point shooters, said Blatt would have some immediate challenges. "Coming in, he has to learn the culture, learn the new players, learn a new city," he said. "David's the kind of guy who loves those challenges and will.., help the club win." Sack played for Hapoel Gan Shemuel in the Israeli league from 1980 through 1989. Sack, a teacher in the Cleveland Heights'University Heights School DistricL said he likes "Blatt's fresh approach, his international experience and his ability to connect with players. I think that Cleveland is attractive to him because of the com- bination of young players and ownership and management who are committed to build- ing a winner through player development and attracting a key free agent or two." Sack and Blatt also have a very special relationship. "David was a great point guard, but the best assist of his Christopher Johnson v~a Wikimedia Commons Former Maccabi Tel Aviv coach David Blatt has ac- cepted a head coaching job with the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers. career was a non-basketball one," Sack said. "He helped introduce me to my wife to be, Aviv. Thatwas 31 years ago and it's still a winner." Sack communicated with Blatt just before he came to Cleveland to be interviewed for the job. "I wished him well and told him there's a lot of love waiting for him in Cleveland if he ends up taking the job," Sack said. Bob Jacob is managing editor of the Cleveland Jewish News (www.clevelandjewish- news.corn), which originally published this story. Levy was speaking on the 50th anniversary of those events. Of the 17 members of the Reform delegation who were arrested that day, eight are still alive. Levy and five others returned to St. Au- gustine for commemorative events titled "Justice, Justice 1964" that were organized by the St. Augustine Jewish Historical Society. The rabbis had come to St. Augustine a half-century ago at the invitation of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., whose Southern Christian Leader- ship Conference was working with students and activists to fight Jim Crow segregation in the city. A focal point for the pro- Dina We instein Six Reform rabbis pose for a photo outside the jail in Augustine, Fla., where they spent a night after being ar- rested protesting for civil rights 50 years earlier. Standing, tests was the 400th anni- from left to right, are Allen Secher, Israel Dresner, Jerrold versary celebrations of the Goldstein and Richard Levy. Sitting are Daniel Fogel, left, city's founding by the Spanish andHanan Sills. explorer Pedro Menendez. Blacks had been excluded By Dina Weinstein people at Flagler College. "I from the committee that never thought I would come planned the federally funded ST.AUGUSTINE, Fla. (JTA) back here." commemorations. -- For Rabbi Richard Levy, The rabbis' June 18, 1964 Media coverage of the on- it was an emotional return pray-in outside the Monson going St. Augustine protests to this historic northeastern Motor Lodge and Restaurant and the violent resistance to Florida city. served as a decoy maneuver them by segregationists had The first time Levy came for other black and white put pressure on Congress to St. Augustine 50 years ago, demonstrators who jumped when the Civil RightsActwas he and 15 other rabbis and a together into the motel's seg- facing a filibuster. ReformJewishleaderendured regatedpool.Policeresponded A week before the rabbis' taunts from segregationists forcefully, protest, Kinghimselfhadbeen armed with broken bottles Associated Press photos arrested outside the Monson and bricks. They were jailed of the angry motel owner - Motor Lodge. King penned a along with other civil rights pouring acid into the water "LetterfrmtheSt'Augustine activists after taking part in and of a fully clothed police Jail" to his friend and sup- protestsatasegregatedmotel, officer jumping in to haul out porter Rabbi Israel Dresner "AsIcamehereandsawthe the protesters were splashed of New Jersey asking for help. sign that said St. Augustine, across newspapers the next "We need you down here I was stunned," the Los An- day as the U.S. Senate voted with as many Rabbis as you geles resident told a standing toapprove the landmark 1964 canbringwithyou!'hewrote. room only crowd of over 250 Civil Rights Act. The rabbis came directly D "civil from the Central Conference to shine a light on values that of Rabbis meeting in Atlantic motivated the Reform rabbis City, N.J.,where Dresner read and their allies in pursuit of the message from King. justice. Rabbi Jerrold Goldstein still The Union for Reform Juda- remembers the introduction ism's Religious Action Center for the rabbis at a church rally, in Washington, D.C., played a recalling someone saying, particularlyimportantpartin "Here come Moses' people." the push for civil rights. The Goldstein told The Flor- landmark Civil Rights Act ida Times-Union, "They all and the-1965 Voting Rights cheered, like I'd just walked Actwere drafted in the RAC's across the desert. Theywere conference room by civil so happy to [see] us; I know rights leaders. they felt so isolated, so en- "From these events we dangered." see a coalition of people can RabbiAllen Secher recalled changeAmerica,"A1Vorspan, being shocked by the violence the now-retired Reform leader of white law enforcement of- who was arrested along with ficials as he and others were the rabbis, said in a telephone hauled off to the St. Johns interview. County Jail. At the time of his arrest, "An officer decided that Vorspan was the director of a young white woman wastheCommissiononSocialAc- not obeying his:commands," tion at the Union of American Sechersaid."Heturnedonhis Hebrew Congregations, the electriccattleprodandshoved URJ's predecessor. it into her rear end. I can still Today, the RAC is mobiliz- hear her screams." ing support for aVoting Rights King had called St. Augus- AmendmentAct, a response to tine one of the most violent the Supreme Court's decision places he had ever visited, in Shelby v. Holder last year On the 50th anniversarythat struck down a key provi- visit, much had changed, sionoftheVotingRightsAct. The rabbis were feted and The Jewish liberal advo- welcomed by the mayor and cacy group Bend the Arc has the'St. Augustine 450th corn- launched its own campaign in memoration officials, support of the voting rights "We don't want you t lion- legislation. It sent out an email ize us," Rabbi Israel Dresner, appeal from David Goodman, 85, told the crowd at the open- thebrother of one of three civil ing panel. "The real heroes rights workers - one black, are the ones who stayed and two Jewish--murdered in fought the batl~le." Mississippi only days after the The St. Augustine Jewish rabbis'arrestinSt.Augusti-ne. Historical Society brought Fifty years ago in St. Au- back Levy, Dresner, Goldstein gustine, from the cramped and Secher, as well as Rabbis and steamy cell in St. John Daniel Fogel and Hanan Sills, County jail where they spent the night, the Reform leaders penned a letter titled "Why We Went." Rabbi Eugene Borowitz, today one of Reform Judaism's most eminent theo- logians, organized the effort. It was drafted on. the back of two sheets of a Ku Klux Klan flier. "Here in St. Augustine we have seen the depths of anger, resentment and fury; we have seen faces that expressed a deep implacable hatred," the rabbis wrote. "What disturbs us more deeply is the large number of decent citizens who have stood aside, unable to bring themselves to act, yet knowing in their hearts that this cause is right and that it must inevitably triumph." The six rabbis who came back to St. Augustine lastweek read the moving letter aloud to another capacity crowd. Like rock stars, the rabbis signed a blown-up draft featured in an exhibit on the area's African- American history. The commemorations wound up with a heartfelt concert that brought together a number o~ clergy and choirs from the St. Paul A.M.E. church and Bet Yam Reform synagogue. Anniversaries, Dresner reflected, are beneficial to revive the memory. "We have not finished the job," Dresner said. "They are still trying to restrict people of color in voting. They're cutting early voting, requir- ing IDs. That generally af- fects black and Latino voters. There is always more work to be done."