TORONTO – To Rabbi Shmuli Nachlas, a Detroit native and director of Thornhill’s Jewish Youth Network (JYN), Toronto Raptors stars like DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry and Terrence Ross are role models to Toronto’s young generation, Jewish or otherwise. So when it was time to honour the leaders of JYN at their end-of-year bash at The Factory Lounge, the rabbi was thrilled to welcome Ross to help out.
Ross, 25, was reportedly the centre of attention, and certainly lived up to the role. According to Nachlas, who noted the positivity of the small forward’s character, “Ross represents the values JYN was celebrating.”
The gala, which recognized several community leaders for their outstanding dedication to community service, took place on the eve of a playoff match between Toronto and Indiana, “yet Ross still found the time to come out,” celebrate youth leadership, and engage (and take pictures) with the 200 students, parents, community members and guests that attended.
The JYN is a youth organization, geared mainly toward high school students, in operation for almost a decade. It focuses on educational and social programming and community service, which it organizes under the banner of Teens for the Community (TFC). Nachlas says these programs prepare high school students for roles in the community and creates a fun and safe environment for teenagers. And, according to him, “there’s nothing better for the task than sports.
“Sports are a kosher and productive form of entertainment, whether it’s playing pickup basketball, going to Raptors games, or simply following the careers of Jewish stars like Kevin Pillar,” he says.
JYN’s teens are engaged in Toronto sports, so Nachlas wants to support Toronto teams like the Blue Jays, Raps, and Maple Leafs – particularly during playoff time. (Who knows, maybe the Leafs will even rejoin that arena one day).
So when a Toronto Raptor who’s currently averaging 17.4 minutes of playing time in a dozen playoff games comes to meet with JYN’s leaders, takes selfies, and commends high school students for contributing to their community, Nachlas overhears younger students making plans to join in.
“When I hear from a decade’s worth of alumni who agree that JYN set them on a path to Jewish values, community, and service, I look forward to the next generation of alumni to see how they’ll succeed,” he says. And when he and Terrence Ross trade signed kippahs and the Raptors end up winning the first round of the playoffs (and are one win away from winning the second) that could even be karma rewarding Ross for his mitzvah.
Let’s go Raptors!!!!