Religions unite at Anees Kanter Freedom Basketball Camp

Anis Kanter Freedom is a busy man.

For now, the free agent is still hoping for a spot on the NBA’s roster next fall. The veteran big man (and one of the league’s most outspoken critics of social justice issues, particularly that of Chinese politics) may have played his last game of basketball. for professionals. . But he made up for any lull in basketball action with a world tour in which he headlined multifaith basketball clinics, including one held at Temple Sinai in Los Angeles earlier this month.

The August 10 Clinic, co-hosted by the Muslim Alliance for America (who formed perfect partnerships with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Golden State Warriors) and Temple Sinai, the oldest and largest conservative Jewish congregation in the greater Los Angeles area, brought together more than 100 student-athletes of various faiths from Grade 1 through 8 and they included not only Freedom but also former Yeshiva University basketball player Ryan Turrell.

Receive the AJT newsletter by e-mail and never miss the most important news

“People of different faiths and different cultures came and we had a great time,” Freedom told the Atlanta Jewish Times the day after the clinic. “We learned a lot from each other.”

The clinic, which consisted of an hour of rehearsals and scuffles followed by a panel discussion featuring Freedom and Turell, moderated by Rabbi Erez Sherman of Temple Sinai, originated in late June at the International Religious Freedom (IRF) summit in Washington. , D.C., when Freedom—a devout Muslim and political dissident of Turkey exiled for speaking out against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan—had a serendipitous encounter with Omar Kudrat, founder of the Islamic Alliance for America and child of Afghan immigrants growing up. on the basketball courts of Los Angeles, who was searching for a suave name for his clinic.

“he is [Qudrat] He invited me to this beautiful event,” says Freedom, who has emerged as one of the leading human rights activists in professional sports in North America. “I immediately said, ‘This is the one thing I’m really looking for in America.’”

Less than a week before the Sinai Temple Clinic, Freedom concluded the week-long Anees Kanter Freedom of Unity Basketball Camp at the Jerusalem YMCA, which included dozens of Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Druze children ages 10 to 15, as well as children. Auburn University men’s basketball team.

For the already well-travelled Freedom, whose upbringing included spending time in Switzerland, Turkey, and Southern California—after a year at the University of Kentucky before his NBA career took him to Salt Lake City, Oklahoma City, New York, Boston, and Portland—Israel’s camp provided him with the opportunity to long-awaited trip.

“I’ve never been to Mecca, but Israel, and especially Jerusalem, was definitely the holiest place I’ve ever been,” says Freedom, who had aspirations of becoming an astronaut before starting his basketball gig. “I went to visit the ancient city. It was so beautiful. It literally takes you back to what it was like 2,000 years ago. It’s pretty much time travel.” [experience]. You can sample all of this religion and culture in one place.”

He also couldn’t believe how similar the Israeli food and songs were to what he was used to back home in Turkey.

“I went to a Saturday dinner there and the only thing about Saturday dinner that’s my favorite is that every Friday there’s like Thanksgiving dinner going on in a house. It was like a holiday. I’m definitely looking forward to going back.”

Before he returns, there are more interfaith basketball clinics run by us. As his good friend, Qudrat, knows by now, religion does not enter into the process of picking or carrying out a quick breakfast.

“I think sports are the biggest equalizer and America’s greatest strength,” says Kudrat. The best part [of the event] I’d see Christian kids, Muslim kids, Jewish kids, white kids, black kids, kids from Afghanistan, Iran etc. all together and they didn’t think for a second about any of those things I just mentioned.”

Especially for children of parents who have immigrated from their homelands and are going through the grueling process of adjusting to a new culture, playgrounds (or hard courts) can be a haven.

“A lot of immigrant children don’t have all kinds of programs and aren’t enrolled in Adidas and Nike camps,” adds Kudrat, a prominent lawyer and former US Department of Defense official who ran for Congress from California’s 52nd District. “It will be your own journey to find the sport you love.”

The day clinic at Temple Sinai certainly provided many of these kids the opportunity to fulfill their dream of becoming NBA players. It was a glorious event, and while it’s not easy to pin down a single moment that captures the spirit of unity and camaraderie in the gym, Freedom recalls:

“There was one moment where I got the rebound, the ball dribbled, the ball passed to a Jewish kid, he passed one of them over to the Muslim kid, and then he scored. As he got his defense back, they were fighting each other. It was a beautiful moment. I would like to see more. Of these, not only in Los Angeles, but all over America.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: