This week I was able to give a warm Sioux Falls welcome to NBA G League player Ryan Turell. Ryan is here to play in the Sioux Falls Skyforce vs. Motor City Cruise game. He is not only a skilled player with great moves, but also the first kippah-yarmulke wearing player.
In the recent Torah portions we have been reading about our ancestors Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, the founders of the Jewish people. Each of them had pivotal moments at which point they demonstrated who they were and what they were about. About Abraham, for example, we are told he was called "Avraham Ha-Ivri," also because "the whole world stood on one side, and he stood on the other other."
Being a Jew, sometimes we are called upon to take a stand, even when it may not be so popular. To stand up for who we are, for what we believe, and for what is right for others.
In his own way, and in his career, this is what Ryan Turell is doing. Very publicly and very proudly displaying his Judaism. When someone is that well-known, it may be easier or simpler to remove the kippah while playing. His fans would love him and he would be able to advance in his career easily. Does he really need to make such a fuss of the fact he is Jewish?
But if there is anything that history has shown us, it is that the best way of ensuring that our children and theirs continue to be Jewish, is if we are knowledgeable and proud of who we are.
As Ryan will be enjoying challah, wine and Shabbos dinner this evening, before playing tomorrow with his yarmulke, I'll be thinking what I could learn from him so that I too can be a prouder Jew.
This might also just be our best answer to the Kanye’s of the world. Put on that Kippah!
Rabbi Mendel Alperowitz Blog
Serving the spiritual needs of the South Dakota Jewish community. Based in Sioux Falls and travels the state.