Interview with Interesting Jews: Judy & Tamir “Jewish Jordan” Goodman
By Jillian Scheinfeld at 2:07 pm
Since retiring from playing professional basketball in 2009, Tamir Goodman, known as the “Jewish Jordan,” has been steadily on the go. Tamir and his wife, Judy, have four kids, founded the non-profit Coolanu Israel, and co-wrote The Jewish Jordan’s Triple Threat together. Individually, Tamir created Sport Strings Tzitzit and partners in the Omri Casspi Basketball Camps, and Judy works for various companies–as well as writes, runs, and cooks.
I got to chat with the couple about playing sports with their kids, writing a book together, and their day-to-day life as parents.
Tamir, what do you miss most about playing professionally?
I was fortunate to live out my dream of playing Division I college and professional basketball without playing on Shabbat. I played until injuries prevented me from physically being able to compete anymore. I love the game and I definitely miss playing it, but I never played just for the love of the game; I always played for the larger purpose of representing Israel and Judaism on the court.
Fortunately, I am able to continue this mission even after my playing days have ended through my Coolanu Israel basketball camps, clinics, development of my basketball products like sport Strings Tzitzit and Zone190, and my recently published book, The Jewish Jordan’s Triple Threat.
Do you ball with your kids? What sports are they into?
As a coach (Tamir) and soon-to-be certified personal trainer (Judy), we both recognize how important it is for kids to be active. With this in mind, we play lots of different sports–not just basketball. Some days we ride bikes, or play catch, or go to the playground. We even play sport games in the house when the weather is too cold to go outside.
Through our family routines, we try to expose our kids to different sports and encourage them to have fun being active, because if they enjoy what they are doing then it is more likely to become a life-long habit. In addition to helping kids stay healthy and happy, sports impart so many important values. Resilience, confidence, respect for others, teamwork, commitment, perseverance, and the value of a strong work ethic are all lessons that kids learn while running up and down the court or playing the field.
How does it feel to be such an athletic Jew and break the stereotype of Jews being bad at sports?
Tamir: I think that stereotype partly stems from people assuming that Judaism discourages excelling, or even partaking, in such a physical realm as sports. However, I was raised to believe that Judaism empowers us with the opportunity to imbue the physical world with spirituality. I approached basketball with this attitude. It was not just a game or a sport, but an opportunity to serve God. Every time I stepped on the court, I strove to use my talents to make a Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of God’s name).
Tell me about the team of kids you coach. How much time does that take up?
Tamir: Basketball in some form or another plays a major role in my life. Through my camps, clinics, and seminars I have had the privilege to work with over 25,000 athletes ranging from 3-year-old kids all the way to professional players. Throughout the year I run a variety of basketball programs such as clinics for special needs children, specialty camps to teach life skills and Jewish values through sport, camps to foster relationships between athletes of different cultures and backgrounds, and programs at leading summer camps such as Camp Nesher and Camp Ramah. I have also presented many camps together with Israeli NBA player Omri Casspi. When I am not actively coaching, I speak at all types of events about my life and lessons learned from the court, I develop basketball products, and I work as a sports consultant for teams and coaches.
How did the idea for Coolanu Israel come about? What are both of your responsibilities?
Coolanu Israel is an award-winning non-profit organization that we founded to teach Jewish values to kids through basketball. Tamir felt that the basketball court is an ideal place to teach athletes not only basketball skills, but also values that will last them a lifetime. Our programs include week long specialty camps, leadership training seminars for young adults, cultural diversity camps, and Israel education. Coolanu Israel also runs seminars for coaches to empower them to use positive coaching techniques when working with their athletes and teams. We work as a team but Tamir’s responsibilities primarily include curriculum development, fundraising, coaching, and staff training while Judy focuses on operations and marketing.
How do you both split up the parenting roles?
We both have athlete mentalities which definitely comes in handy as parents because we often remark that there are days that seem longer and harder than running a marathon! We approach parenting as a team–we have each other’s backs at all times, we anticipate ways to help each other, we are committed to a common goal, we give 100 percent effort, and we try to stay positive even in those exhausting and frustrating moments.
In terms of splitting up roles, a lot depends on Tamir’s schedule since he travels frequently to speak and run clinics. When we are both available, we figure out who needs to do what for which kid at what time by constantly communicating and planning in advance. It is a constant juggling act! We have found that one of the best times for us to communicate, plan, and reflect is when we go running together, something which we try to do several times a week.
You wrote The Jewish Jordan’s Triple Threat together. What’s harder: raising kids together or writing a book together?
Definitely trying to raise kids while writing a book together! Between parenting and work, our days left us with little time to sit down together and work on the book. As a solution, we started setting our alarm for 4:00 a.m. so we could finish the book by our publisher’s deadline. This seemed to work out well until the kids somehow sensed that we were awake and they started waking up earlier and earlier, too. Having everyone awake in the wee hours of the morning was obviously not conducive to writing so we reverted back to writing during the daylight hours, albeit while having a baby on one of our laps most of the time. Our final manuscript was turned in just about two weeks late—which we thought was pretty good considering the circumstances!
Both of you have competitive backgrounds–Tamir with basketball, and Judy with competitive running. Do you (or do you plan to) encourage your kids to participate in competitive sports? At what age do you think is the right time to start?
As parents we want our kids to follow their interests and do what they love. At the same time, we feel strongly that sports are a great way for kids to get active which is an important part of living a happy and healthy life. There are also many other advantages to playing team sports. Kids develop socially, discover what it means to be part of a team, and learn how to properly deal with bothwinning and losing. All these lessons transcend the athletic realm and serve kids well in other areas of their lives.
More critical than age, we think that finding a coach who creates a healthy environment for his or her team is something that parents should strongly consider before signing up their kids. A coach can have a lasting effect on a child’s self-esteem–both for the good and bad–and the coach needs to understand this and act with this in mind. We suggest looking for a coach who is positive, encouraging, and focused on each child’s best interest and overall development much more so than on the wins and losses.
Tamir served in the IDF and Judy completed a year of national service in Israel. Are there any lessons you learned from serving that you want to pass down to your kids?
We share a strong love and commitment to Israel and felt it was a privilege to be able to serve. There are so many things we learned but the most important is not to take Israel’s existence for granted. We want our kids to understand that the Jewish people prayed, sacrificed, and longed for the opportunity to return to Israel for thousands of years. That we have a State of Israel today is miracle.
Read more “Interviews with Interesting Jews” here.
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