The Hebrew Academy gym was the site of the 24th annual international Oren Grunbaum Hebrew Academy Invitational Basketball Tournament, which took place from Feb. 14-17.
Founded in 1995, the tournament brings together top Jewish day school players aged 15 and 16 from Montreal, Toronto and the United States for four days of friendly competition.
In 1996, the tournament was renamed after Hebrew Academy alumnus Oren Grunbaum, who died in a tragic accident in 1993.
“Oren is remembered by his teachers as a young man with great creativity and personal warmth,” said Hebrew Academy executive director Linda Lehrer. “He had a distinctive love of basketball and played on the Hebrew Academy teams. We trust that this tournament will continually serve to perpetuate Oren’s memory.”
This year’s tournament united teams from Hebrew Academy, École Maïmonide, Bialik High School, Toronto’s Yeshivat Or Chaim, Hebrew Academy of Nassau County in New York and Torah Academy of Bergen County (TABC) in New Jersey.
“It was nice for me to come back to my mother’s hometown and play in her school, Hebrew Academy,” said Noam Kinderleher, who competed for TABC. “I also got to meet some of her old friends and classmates and it was a great experience overall. We loved playing in front of the loud and crazy crowd. The tournament had a great energy and vibe to it.”
Players spent the weekend together at a lively Shabbaton at a local hotel. The tournament culminated on Feb. 17 with a banquet and award ceremony, where École Maimonide was presented with the top trophy.
Hebrew Academy director of athletics Yoni Lehrer underscored the important role of the tournament in teaching participants the values of teamwork and sportsmanship.
“Our rabbis and teachers focus on developing the mind. In hosting this annual tournament, the athletics department hopes to complement students’ education by helping to cultivate their love for, and commitment to, physical education,” he said.
The tournament was live streamed on YouTube and garnered thousands of views from North America and Israel. Several groups of people even held watch parties.
Among the hundreds of fans who attended the games were Oren’s Grunbaum’s parents, David and Judi.
“My family was very impressed by the ruach (spirit) and the wonderful turnout,” said Judi Grunbaum. “We attend the tournament with heavy hearts, but we are grateful Oren’s memory continues to shine.”