By Sean Shapiro
Special to the TJP
Score was kept and there was a competitive vibe, but that was secondary to the larger purpose when the 15th annual Points for Peace 3-on-3 basketball tournament was held at the Jewish Community Center on Sunday.
The tournament is put on by Students Against Terrorism, one of Yavneh Academy’s many student-run organizations.
At the end of the day more than $50,000 was raised during the student-run tournament for Operation Embrace, and all the teams — even those that lost every game — had a smile on their face.
“It’s great to come together for a bigger purpose,” said Noah Rubinstein, the co-president of SAT, who also played in the high school division. “Everyone is happy at this tournament. Whether you win or lose, you’re out here having fun and it’s helping a greater cause while making the world a better place.”
Throughout the day more than 70 teams, spread across 11 divisions, put on a show in the half-court setting. Long jumpers and 3-pointers were common, while a couple of dunks were even sprinkled in the high school boys and adult divisions. Some of the teams showed up in custom shirts or jerseys, while many of the participants found the most unique or odd basketball jersey they had in their closet (one team had three players wearing various Dennis Rodman jerseys).
To enter the tournament each team had to raise at least $200 in sponsorships to donate and pay the $30 registration fee. All of the donations will help victims of terror in Israel through Operation Embrace.
Operation Embrace offers assistance to injured survivors — of all races and religions — of terror in Israel. The organization provides both direct assistance and group support through a number of programs and provides a brighter future to those impacted by senseless violence.
And 2017 was one of the most successful events in the 15-year history of Points for Peace, which had raised more than $544,000 to date before this weekend.
Rubinstein and SAT Co-President Rosie Bernstein set a goal of raising $50,000 in donations this year. As of Monday the final tally hadn’t been counted, but Rubinstein said that early returns were encouraging and he estimated Points For Peace raised at least $50,000.
To help reach that number Rubinstein and Bernstein got creative with their finances and tried to cut costs as much as possible. They reached out to local businesses and endeavored to secure prizes through donations, and it worked.
“Anything we spend we have to take away from the donation,” Bernstein said. “So we really wanted to make sure we didn’t have to spend a thousand dollars on prizes or anything like that. In the end we didn’t have to spend a single cent on prizes thanks to donations, which I think is a first, and we were able to donate even more to a great cause.”
The organizers also worked on growing the number of teams. In 2016 there were close to 55 teams, this year the number reached above 70.
“We got more active in recruiting and went to a lot of Sunday schools,” Bernstein said. “We looked at it this way. Even if we only get one extra team on a trip to tell people about this, we’re getting at least $230 more for Operation Embrace.”
And, there were teams from all over the Metroplex. In the boys high school division a team drove from Fort Worth. Parking was scarce at the JCC on Sunday as players and fans crowded into the facility.
It was a rewarding experience for Rubinstein and Bernstein, who both started playing in the tournament at an early age.
“I’ve been playing in this tournament since first grade and each year I look forward to playing in the tournament,” Rubinstein said. “I think I was always being groomed to eventually have a bigger role in running it, so this was exciting.”
Bernstein had a similar story.
“When I was a kid my goal on my team was always to raise as much money as possible,” she said. “Each year we’d set a higher goal and we’d try and meet it. Then as I got older I got more involved and it was really special to be able to be in this spot now.”