By Deb Silverthorn
Max Ribald, of blessed memory, who passed away May 27, left behind family, friends and a community far and wide who want to keep his memory alive. He was a man whose smile never faded; the gleam in his eye never dimmed; his heart always gave. The Max Ribald z”l Basketball Court Project, at the Beit Midrash of Elon Moreh, in Israel, is certain to score points for generations.
“Max was a neshama — that’s it — that pure. He gave everything with his heart,” said Monica, Ribald’s wife of nearly 51 years, during an Aug. 31 parlor meeting at the home of the couple’s youngest son Ian and his wife Ilana, to kick off the project. “I hope you’ll give a little, give a lot — give something. This is a great opportunity to remember a man who valued friends, and Israel, like no one else.”
The Beit Midrash of Elon Moreh, located near the city of Shechem, was founded in 1980 intent on playing a significant role in Israel’s national and spiritual revival. Under the leadership of Rabbi Elyakim Levanon, the beit midrash trains Torah scholars — young teens in middle school through post-high school studies — in educational programs instilling devotion to Torah ideals, a dedication to greater Israel and a sense of commitment to all the people of Israel.
“This community is one that walks the walk, and talks the talk, of the importance and commitment of Jewish education,” said Elliott Cahan, who was in Dallas on Aug. 31, addressing an audience of prospective donors — all longtime friends of the Ribald family. “The school has grown from 95 to 230 students in just the last six years and we need to grow the campus, and whatever we can to provide the best to our students. Our growth is incredible and we want to continue to provide all that we can.”
It is toward that goal that a campaign for the Max Ribald Basketball Courts, at Yeshiva High School of Elon Moreh–Shechem, is underway. Over $42,000 has been raised toward the $180,000 goal that will provide a new basketball court with four baskets, four soccer goals, two volleyball nets and more.
Friends and family said that Ribald left an impression on the hearts and souls of the young men of Akiba Yavneh, of the JCC and from afar to the students of Elon Moreh — for whom he raised nearly $100,000 — and the depths of his devotion to anyone ever in his path are everlasting.
In his nearly 16 years at Akiba Yavneh Academy, as a parent, coach and friend, he reached hundreds of children, their parents and the faculty.
“Max loved basketball but he loved coaching and mentoring young Jewish boys into manhood more. He taught them how to be better ballplayers but, more importantly, how to better Jews and better people,” said David Zimmerman, AYA athletic director and head varsity coach, who worked alongside Ribald for eight years. “He always achieved this with a smile on his face and warmth in his heart, and his impact on the Dallas Jewish community changed our school.
“Personally, Max made me a better coach, a better Jew and above all else a better man,” said Zimmerman. “He will never be forgotten, his legacy will live on forever and he was and always will be one of the best friends I ever had.”
Ribald was married to Monica for nearly 51 years. The family includes son Chad and daughter-in-law Risa Ribault and their children Anna, Dasi, Adam and Ariella Rifka; son Dr. Justin (Yanki) and daughter-in-law Marissa Ribault and their children Ari, Eitan, Esther and Jackie; son Ian “Itzy” and daughter-in-law Ilana Ribald and their children Charlotte, Grace (Chaya Golda) and Claire; and dear cousin Zack “ZP” Pollack.
“When those you love pass away, all you can do is to honor their commitments and keep their spirit alive. My Dad would have loved watching these kids play ball — of course he’d also call them out for every double dribble and travel,” said Itzy, who like his brothers played basketball under their father’s coaching support.
Elon Moreh is built at the locale where, as the Torah teaches in Lech Lecha, G-d promised Abraham “I will make of you a great nation and I will bless you.”
“It is [because] of the students learning, exercising their minds and bodies, that the great nation will go on,” said Rabbi Howard Wolk, JFS community chaplain and longtime friend of the Ribald family.
Ribald’s son Itzy recalls being in Israel with his dad as a child and how he realized at an early age how much his father loved the Jewish homeland.
“I remember a trip to Israel with my family when I was 9, and my Dad was electrified and so excited to be there. It was his second, really his first, home and we want to continue his legacy — and spirit of creating friendships — in the place he loved,” said Itzy.
To make a donation to the Max Ribald z”l Basketball Court Project, visit tinyurl.com/Max-Ribald-obm-Bball-Court.