This is a message for all those American Jews who have detached themselves from identifying with their religion, have tried to blend into the crowd to be like everyone else, and have seemingly marked themselves as “safe” for when things get bad, and everyone turns on the Jews. Not a good strategy and not good for the economy. It’s a fact that throughout history in places where Jewish communities thrived and were treated with respect, the economy thrived. The growing trend of American Jews speaking out against Israel and trying to disassociate themselves from “the tribe” is bad for those Jews in particular, and bad for the American economy in general. No matter how much you may think you’ve blended in, history shows that when society turns on the Jews, there is nowhere to hide.
A Great Example of Jewish Americans Supporting Israel
Bruce Pearl’s Auburn men’s Basketball team is here in Israel on a Goodwill Tour escorted by Jay Bilas and ESPN’s Roxy Bernstein. And the point of all this is to promote peace and improve everyone’s image of Israel. They played Israel’s National Basketball team in Tel-Aviv (who won), after giving clinics and a few basketball scrimmages in Haifa and Jerusalem.
The most incredible thing about this whole initiative would have to be the charismatic coach Bruce Pearl who understands how it’s our responsibility to provide the world with good examples of human behavior. Here is the twitter link to the clip where he’s bringing the tablets down the mountain and presenting them to his students. He also spoke to SEC Now about being here in Israel for a “life-changing” experience.
The other most incredible thing is this moving post on LinkedIn by Daniel Posner, a VC, who is the founder of Athletes for Israel. It’s such a stunning post that encapsulates so perfectly why Israel exists, that I’m sharing it in full here:
When I founded Athletes For Israel almost four years ago, I had envisioned the impact we can have on antisemitism by bringing athletes to Israel to experience the true beauty of the country and spread positive messages and support for Israel. We have brought many athletes to Israel including Ray Allen, Enes Kanter, Rick Barry, Eddie Curry and others but this last trip with Auburn was particularly special. I toured with the Auburn Men’s Basketball team and coaching staff for the past 10 days and I would like to share a few reflections:
The experience of being Israel can not be replicated by reading about it or even seeing it in pictures. It has to be experienced in person. Many of the players had never crossed the Atlantic, much less visited the actual sites mentioned in the Bible they’ve been reading since they were kids. Their preconceptions of Israel ranged from a country of sand and camels to a war-torn country in ruins. I can confidently say we changed that. That’s incredibly powerful and I am still grappling with the impact this will have across families, communities and campuses. They toured the country seeing its vast history dating back thousands of years across three world religions juxtaposed to a country dubbed “startup nation” because of its concentration of innovation and technology.
It’s hard to pinpoint a favorite moment because there were so many amazing experiences packed into the trip. I’ve been to Israel countless times and toured most of the sites, yet this trip afforded me the opportunity to visit places I have never been with people whom I had never met before. It’s hard to identify a single moment that encapsulated the trip because I was in a constant learning and growing mode. Creating new friendships, learning about new backgrounds, and growing a new, greater appreciation for the country I have known for so long. Looking back, the special moments weren’t the ones I would have expected like at the basketball games or the Dead Sea or the Jordan River or relaxing on the beaches of Tel Aviv, but the intimate moments with the players and coaches at dinners and walking around just laughing and creating life-long bonds. It was truly special and I will cherish it for a lifetime.
Lastly, it’s important to take our experience and replicate it for other college programs that want to have a similar impact.
I can not understate how proud I am of our team at Athletes For Israel and grateful for Coach Bruce “Mordechai” Pearl for being the trailblazer that he is. These trips don’t happen because of one or two people but because of the collective efforts of everyone involved.
Now more than ever we have deep conviction that we can accomplish our goals of combatting antisemitism and spreading positive messages and support for Israel.
Shalom War Eagle!
In my professional opinion, this initiative didn’t get the PR it should have. From what I can see there is only this letter to the editor in an Auburn publication:
Auburn University head basketball coach Bruce Pearl deserves kudos for taking his team on the NCAA’s inaugural 10-day “Birthright for College Basketball” tour of Israel.
Coach Pearl and his players as part of their trip to Israel visited Yad Vashem and the Children’s Museum dedicated to the 1.5 million Jewish children murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators.
As Coach Pearl said: “Our kids also come from a perspective culturally and educationally that they will return to the United States as allies and friends of the State of Israel.”
It looks like this initiative was organized by the Creative Community For Peace (CCFP), “a non-profit entertainment industry organization comprised of prominent members of the entertainment community who have come together to promote the arts as a bridge to peace, to counter antisemitism within the entertainment industry, and to galvanize support against the cultural boycott of Israel. We understand the power that music, film, and television has in bringing people together of all backgrounds and believe that the arts are crucial to help bridge cultural divides. We also believe in artists and their ability to affect lives and effect positive change around the world. We are also an apolitical organization that strives to provide balance to the discourse regarding the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and encourage artists to travel to the region to experience it for themselves.”