Synagogue Basketball League Creates Team Spirit

If you thought religious Judaism and sports don’t mix, think again. The Petah Tikvah synagogue league proves otherwise.

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Elad Benari & Yoni Kempinski,

Petah Tikva synagogue league
Petah Tikva synagogue league
Arutz Sheva photo: Yoni Kempinski

If you thought religious Judaism and sports don’t mix, think again.

The Petach Tikva basketball league for synagogues finished a season of games this past week, and Arutz Sheva attended the final game to learn more about this unique league.

“It’s a league which has been running for five years,” said league director Ohad Sagiv. “Local synagogues organize themselves, hold sports competitions, and there is also team building between the communities and the athletes themselves.”

Sagiv explained that the league is not organized as a neighborhood league, not only because some neighborhoods have more than one synagogue and each puts together a team, but also because the league creates an atmosphere of solidarity within the synagogues.

“The gabbai (sexton, ed.) on Friday evening goes up to the bimah (podium, ed.) and makes announcements about the game which is scheduled for the coming week,” he said. “People are invited to come cheer the team. It unifies the congregation, it’s related to the synagogue and it’s less about the neighborhood. Each synagogue chooses a team so it’s about each individual synagogue and not about a neighborhood.”

Sagiv noted that the players usually start off the season out of shape, but said that this changes as the season progresses.

“At the beginning of the season the guys are chubby but slowly, as the league continues, they get into shape and start losing weight, and as soon as the league ends they go back to the routine chubbiness,” he said.