Alley Oop to Aliyah

Alley Oop to Aliyah

For any of you that have spent time in Israel, you know that sports are a big part of the culture.  One of the enduring themes has been Maccabi Tel Aviv competing in European Championship games using African-American players who were not able to get (or stay) in the NBA.

My friend David Goldstein from Toronto, wrote a book entitled “Alley Oop to Aliyah: African American Hoopsters in the Holy Land.”  David is a long-time colleague from the Sports Lawyers Association and he spent many years researching and writing the book.

Listening to his presentation was extremely interesting, because he came at it not from the basketball perspective but from the cultural phenomenon that it represents.  David explained how his early interest in the story was driven by the passion his grandmother’s friends exhibited when talking about a Toronto Raptors player who had spent some time in Israel.  Their excitement when they heard David was from Toronto went beyond any reasonable relationship or rooting interesting in the local team.

According to David, over 800 players have made their way to Israel since the first known player Alcie Perry, who was a stalwart in Maccabi Tel Aviv’s 1977 European Championship, perhaps one of the most important sporting events in Israeli sports history.  As a side note, I was in 7th grade and happened to be living in Israel at the time, and I can confirm the enormity of the event and the feverish passion that was exhibited around the country.

David shared stories about some of the favorite characters he interviewed for the book.  These stories included players that:

  • Joined the Israeli army voluntarily. 
  • Married Israeli women.
  • Converted to Judaism.
  • Raised children in Israel.
  • Became Israeli citizens.
  • Found less racism in Israel.
  • Became spokespeople for Israel.
  • Experienced anti-semitism by playing for an Israeli team.
  • Celebrated Championships with an Israeli flag (instead of the team logo or flag).

The two events in Chicago were well attended and there was a lot of interest in his presentation.  I encourage you to bring David to your community for an event.  I think you will find him very engaging, empathetic and well-spoken, creating a lot of warmth and a positive experience for your organization.

For more information about David or “Alley-Oop to Aliyah”, please email me at rkessel@sportsloop.com and I am happy to make the introduction.

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