When Tamir Goodman starting looking at playing Division 1 basketball in college, some people thought he would never get the opportunity.
He had the skills, but Goodman wanted to maintain his devotion to his Jewish faith by never playing basketball during the Jewish sabbath, or Shabbat, which covers part of Fridays and Saturdays.
People “hinted to me as a kid, ‘You’re never going to play college, never going to play professionally. What kind of college or professional team will ever take you?,’ ” Goodman recalled.
But, Towson University did. The Maryland school and its conference, the Colonial Athletic Association, worked to schedule games around Shabbat and Goodman only missed one contest, which came in the postseason, during two years there. He became the first Jewish player to play D-1 and professional basketball while observing the Shabbat and wearing the kippah head covering.
“I was able to live out my dream,” he said. “I’m very appreciative of that.”
Goodman, who went on to play professionally in Israel and the United States, had his career cut short by injury at 27. But, the Cleveland man is carrying on his passion for basketball by writing a book, giving speeches and leading clinics in hopes of inspiring others to reach their full potential. He has also started the nonprofit Coolanu Israel, which runs programs to strengthen Jewish identity and connection to Israel.
Goodman is visiting Natick Sunday to receive Temple Israel of Natick’s Geshelin Humanitarian Award at a 10 a.m. breakfast. Tickets to the breakfast, which includes a talk by Goodman titled “Life Lessons from the Basketball Court,” cost $36 for adults and $18 for children.
Goodman will also hold free, half-hour basketball clinics for boys and girls. Grades 1 through 3 will be at 12:30 p.m., grades 4 and 5 will be at 1:30 p.m., and grades 6 through 8 will be at 2:30 p.m. at the Community-Senior Center.
“He’s just a really great role model for young people in terms of being the best you can be and using your own individual talents,” said Michelle Weiner-Taylor, a Holliston resident and temple member organizing Sunday’s events. “He’s a role model for us in the Jewish community because he was able to put his faith up front and center with his love for basketball.”
Goodman, dubbed by media “the Jewish Jordan,” played basketball professionally in Israel and with the Maryland Nighthawks. He also served in the Israeli Defense Forces. The strains of military service along with basketball practice led Goodman to have knee problems. He retired in 2009 from leg and hand injuries.
He said he turned the letdown of no longer being able to play the sport he loved into something positive as he seeks to inspire others through sharing his story.
“Hopefully they’ll learn to fulfill their dream,” Goodman said. “I was able to do it. Hopefully, they can apply it to their life and apply it to who they are.”
Goodman is also holding a basketball camp July 7 to 11 with NBA player Omri Casspi. For more information, visit tamirgoodman.com.
For more information about the Natick events, call Weiner-Taylor at 508-333-8291.
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