By: Ralph Cohen

The biggest community sports news in March was undoubtedly the Magen David Yeshiva (MDY) Varsity team’s debut at Madison Square Garden. In a benefit organized by the Tamar Fund International to raise money for cancer patients, MDY squared off against the highly acclaimed Israeli Gymnasa Reali High School basketball squad from the city of Rishon Le Sion. Set in the world’s most famous arena, the game took place on March 21st, immediately following a highly charged game between the New York Knicks and Houston Rockets.

Prior to the NBA game, Knicks legend John Starks was presented with a silver cup on behalf of the Tamar Fund and the Rishon Le Sion team, as a token of gratitude to the Knicks for their charitable efforts. Later, a shining Walt Frazier, decked out in a purple suit, came to greet the high school players and Yad Tamar fans. “Helping cancer patients is important,” the Knicks Hall of Famer said. “Bless you for your work, Yad Tamar.” Frazier, Starks and former Knicks superstar Allan Houston also each signed basketballs which would later be auctioned off, with the proceeds to benefit Yad Tamar.

The teenagers of both teams were also present during the Knicks’ practice before the game, and had an opportunity to rub elbows with the players. Both high school teams were at center court during the ceremony. As an additional goodwill gesture from the Knicks, the high school players were allowed to remain on the floor while the NBA teams were introduced.

As part of the program, 16-year-old Yeshiva of Flatbush student Jack Anteby, who is recovering from cancer, sat courtside by the Knicks bench as Co-Captain, in a seat for which season ticket holders pay over $100,000! Meanwhile, five other boys from MDY: Joseph Chehebar , Ezra Doueck , Mark Guindi , Alfonse Missry, Elliott Sutton and Leon Betesh, who all helped coordinate the event , got to be the ”starting 5” and shook hands with the NBA players before the game.

For the 10 Israeli players, who were visiting New York for the first time just for this event, the excitement intensified when they were told that they would be on the floor in front of the visitors’ tunnel while the Houston Rockets were introduced.

After the NBA game, the high school teams took to the court. With scores of fans filling the seats at center court, the MDY team was clearly savoring the opportunity to be playing at the world famous arena.  Meanwhile, the highly skilled Israeli team – lead by coach Ziv Erez, who for six years trained basketball star Omri Caspi of the Sacramento Kings – the first Israeli to play for an NBA team – took to the floor with absorbed seriousness.

In a day that offered many great plays and exemplary sportsmanship, the results favored the visiting teams. The Rockets edged the Knicks by a score of 116-112, and the Rishon Le Sion team outshone MDY, winning by a score of 42-28.

As a reward for their efforts, the victorious Rishon Le Sion team was awarded a prize of 10 different colored diamonds, donated especially for the event by Briza Color Diamonds, the biggest colored diamond company in the world. The precious stones were then promptly donated to the Tamar Fund to finance activities involved in aiding cancer patients.

After the successful event, Micky Wasserteil , Chairman of Yad Tamar Israel, said, “This is the first time Yad Tamar Israel is initiating such big event and our immense gratitude goes out to Charles Anteby and Magen David Yeshiva for making it happen. The success of this first of its kind, special event has encouraged us to already begin working on similar events over the next year in three other cities and three other high school teams around the US.”

Tamar Fund International was founded in 2007 in Memory of Tamar Lichtenstadt, who had recently passed away from cancer. Born and raised in Jerusalem in 1951, Tamar was the first kindergarten teacher in the renovated Jewish Quarter of the Old City. She married and was blessed with four children. A career opportunity for Tamar’s husband, Physics Professor Jechiel Lichtenstadt, led the family to Richmond, Virginia for several years during which time she continued teaching children with love and dedication.

Shortly after moving back to Israel, Tamar was diagnosed with cancer and began a difficult battle with the disease. During her chemotherapy treatment, Tamar continued to teach every day, occasionally being forced to briefly hide from the kids in a back room during the most intense periods of agony. Yet she maintained a full educational program to such an extent that neither the children nor their parents knew anything about her illness. Only in the final weeks of her life was she physically unable to attend to her class – but even then she remained optimistic and continued to guide her replacement until just 10 days before she died at home at the age of 56.

The Fund’s mission is to provide assistance to cancer patients of all ages and their families, in the US and in Israel and to support the medical professionals and volunteers who are dedicated to caring for them.

For more information about Tamar Fund, contact: Micky Wasserteil, Chairman of Yad Tamar Israel at 917-58-33248 or Yuval Orly, CEO Tamar Fund Israel at +972-54-549-0526 or +972-52-607-1446 and yuval.orly@gmail.com