Jewish Journal

Basketball Tournament Combines Jump Shots With an ‘Uplifting’ Shabbat

Shalhevet High School players (in white) took the court against Salenter Akiba Riverdale Academy from the Bronx, N.Y., in the Steve Glouberman Annual Basketball Tournament. Photo by Zoey Botnick

Photo credit: Zoey Botnick

More than 250 Jewish high school athletes, boys and girls, descended upon Shalhevet High School for the Steve Glouberman Annual Basketball Tournament on Nov. 8-12. Teams from local schools such as Shalhevet, Valley Torah, Harkham-GAON Academy and Yeshiva University of Los Angeles Boys and Girls high schools (YULA) competed, as well as teams from as far as Florida, New Jersey, Seattle and Israel.

The event, in its third year, is more than just a basketball tournament.

At most tournaments, visiting teams spend off-hours in their hotels. With the Glouberman tournament, volunteer hosts in the community house the teams. And there’s also a jam-packed Shabbaton schedule.

“A big part of the tournament is being part of the community, meeting people and bonding,” said Raizie Weissman, the Shalhevet administrator who runs the tournament. “All the teenagers bonding together is very important for us.”

“It’s about much more than wins and losses.” — Rabbi Ari Segal

More than 60 Jewish families — most from the Shalhevet community — housed visiting players, coaches and chaperones. Everyone associated with the teams also were invited to a barbecue on Shalhevet’s rooftop, Friday night dinners with host families and Shabbat services at Beth Jacob Congregation. They also had a chance to meet local Jewish hoops hero David Blu, the former USC Trojan who went on to star for Maccabi Tel Aviv.

“It’s obvious to anyone who participates in the Glouberman tournament that it’s about much more than wins and losses,” said Rabbi Ari Segal, the head of school at Shalhevet. “It’s about Jewish students converging from across the country — and in one case, across the ocean — to have an experience, to meet each other and to learn from one another and have a transformative and uplifting Shabbat.”

While the players bonded off the court, they were fiercely competitive on it. Capacity crowds crammed into the Shalhevet gym, filling it with the sounds of bullhorns and cheers. The tournament was an opportunity for local Jewish high school students to experience the kind of high-level Jewish basketball tournament that typically takes place only on the East Coast.

“Being part of a local tournament was a phenomenal experience,” said Lior Schwartzberg, the Valley Torah boys coach. “Our games probably had about half of our campus attending.”

Katz Yeshiva High School, a Boca Raton, Fla., team, won the girls division. Valley Torah, led by guard Ryan Turell, took down the team from New Jersey’s Frisch School. Playing despite an injured wrist, Turell scored 30 points on his way to winning Most Valuable Player honors.

“This was a unique and special experience,” the 6-foot-5 Turell said. “It allowed me to hang out with kids from across the country that I wouldn’t have known otherwise and establish friendships that will last a lifetime.”

Flora Glouberman, the widow of Steve Glouberman, created the tournament as a way to honor her late husband, who died in 2015 after a battle with cancer. She envisioned the tournament as a way to bring the Shalhevet and wider Jewish communities together.

Segal remembered Steve, a lawyer and YULA graduate, as “a bridge builder in the Jewish community.”

Flora and Steve’s three children, now adults, all attended Shalhevet, where Steve frequented the sidelines of its basketball games.

“I’m blown away by how big this has become,” Flora said. “It’s a testament to the people at Shalhevet who put this together and the community as a whole, opening up their homes.”

Flora was deeply involved in the tournament’s details, even hosting a Seattle team for Shabbat dinner at her Beverlywood home.

“That’s one of the aspects I really love,” she said. “These kids get to know our community and we get to know this school from Seattle.”

Just before the opening night’s tipoff, Flora was led into the gym for the unveiling of a new scoreboard bearing her husband’s name.

“I was very touched to see it,” she said. “It’s now a constant reminder to me of the love and support that the community shows to our family.”