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Falcons News · Elevating the Spirit – Hausdorff Day 3


Day 3 of the Hausdorff Tournament is extra special – and extra long.  It starts on Friday night and runs late into the wee hours on Saturday, way past Motzei Shabbat, which is what makes it extra long. But, what makes it extra special is that is encompasses all of Shabbat.  The Tournament has already experienced its opening Yachad event and half of the games have already been put in the books.  But it is not until Shabbat that “Hausdorff” really is “Hausdorff!”

One of the recurring themes of Shabbat during Hausdorff is the sharing of learning and sharing of leadership roles, with words of Torah from members of the participating teams and their Rabbis and with tefilot lead and presented by the players as well.  Rabbi Besser kicked things off at Kabbalat Shabbat, with a message on miracles.  Asking if the miracle of Chanukah is that oil that was meant to last only one day lasted for eight days, then why do we celebrate for 8 days when the miracle was really one of 7 days?  He shared that the reason is that the fact that the oil burns for even 1 day is a miracle as well.  Rabbi Besser pointed out that the lesson is to never take anything for granted, to understand the good fortune we share everyday and to appreciate the opportunity presented in events like Hausdorff.  Before heading to the Main Gym for Shabbat Dinner, one member from each team presented a Dvar Torah, each with a different lesson on the opening action of parashat Vayishlach in which Ya’akov eventually reunites with his brother Esav.  Cooper’s Yakov Freiberg started things off, followed by Yosef Niknam of Kohelet.  Farber’s Jacob Sigler was next, and Isaac Sutton of Flatbush brought the first round home with a focus on Ya’akov’s preparation and the significance of each of his actions.  After Tefilot, all went down to the gym which had been converted into a dining hall (special thanks to the Tournament Committee members for the set up and serving of a sumptuous Shabbat meal!).  From there, all proceeded to the home of one of the Flatbush families for an oneg shabbat.

It is perhaps the signature event of Hausdorff, and it again was every bit the highlight anyone who as ever attended a Hausdorff Tournament has come to expect.  The tournament participants were openly welcomed into the home of Amy and Steven Sasson for an oneg filled with food and sweets, z’mirot and learning.  With the players filling their plates and mixing at the many tables set by the hosts, Rabbi Besser took the lead in raising voices in song.  Interspersed with the z’mirot, three of the Flatbush team presented more words of Torah.  First to speak was Ricky Sasson, whose parents home all were gathered.  He was followed by teammate Alan Sassoon, who shared.  The final Flatbush speaker was the coach – Michael Gurock.  Coach Gurock took the actions of Ya’akov and shared how the job of a coach is very similar.  Much as Ya’akov was preparing not only for him to meet his brother but for his entire entourage, so too does a coach prepare not only for him or herself, but for the entire team, noting how there are many elements to preparing and each is important in setting the stage for positive outcomes.  one of the highlights of the singing came next, as Rabbi Besser called on Flatbush Coach Gus Kennedy to lead three special z’mirot.  With “gusto” and flair, Gus started things off, and all quickly joined in, and the house was rocking!  With players from Cooper arm in arm with players from Farber who were locked together with boys from Flatbush and across from the guys from Philadelphia, it was everything the event is all about – creating a larger community!

Shabbat morning was filled by more tefilot, and more Divrei Torah.  Guest Rabbi Benjy Owen of Cooper spoke in the morning, delving into the latter part of the parasha, speaking on the events involving Ya’akov’s daughter Dina and the revenge taken by his sons Shimon and Levi on the people of Shechem, with a focus on Ya’akov’s concern with the impact their actions would have relative to their neighboring peoples in the land of Cana’an.  Though Shimon and Levi believed their neighbors would recognize that their actions were justified and would approve, Ya’akov knew their neighbors better; he knew they would not understand, and it was only through devine providence and intervention that Ya’akov’s family and his people were saved.  Rabbi Owen was followed by David Kleiman of Farber, and Benjamin Mendelsohn of Cooper. Kohelet’s dvar torah was again presented by Yosef Niknam (prompting Director Gelber to note, “one more and he gets a hat trick!”) who was followed by Flatbush’s Yigal Laham.

Before mincha, the players gathered for a special set of learning.  Rabbi Yair Silversein of Farber in Detroit led off.  He spoke of Reuven’s actions at the end of the parasha, yet the orah still groups him in as the 12 brothers being one unit, not 11 and Reuven.  He points out that that is because his actions did not actually violate the law.  It was the spirit of the law that was of importance, and that was key.  Rabbi Besser then noted this special set of teaching was specifically in honor of Thomas Hausdorff, for who the tournament is named.  He noted that everytime one learns with one in mind, it elevates their neshama – their spirit – to a higher level.  This is exactly what Flatbush student-athlete Morris Dweck spoke to.  He taught of the mishnah in Pirkei Avot that says the world stands on three things – Torah, Service to Hashem and Chesed, noting that only Chesed is in plural.  He pointed out that it is because chesed is more than just the one act; chesed has a ripple effect.  One act of chesed leads to another.  That ripple effect is also present when learning is done – or any action is undertaken – in the name of someone who has passed on.  In this way, this event, the entire Tournament and Shabbaton, has a ripple effect in elevating the spirit of Thomas Hausdorff, A”H.  Following Morris was Tammy Hausdorff Speilman, Thomas Hausdorff’s daughter.  Tammy shared how moved she and her siblings have been for the past 22 years, noting with pride at how meaningful it has been to see young men from the different schools gather in her father’s memory to keep alive the ideals he held in such high regard.  She shared what an amazing thing it is and how appreciative she and her family are to continue to be a part of an amazing and special event.  From there, it was time for Shabbat menucha, a well deserved rest for players, committee members and event organizers alike.

With Shabbat concluded, it was on to the final pair of round-robin contests.  Coning in to the night, Flatbush was atop the leader board with a 2-0 record, Farber and Kohelet were even as each had one win and one loss, and Cooper came in at 0-2 so far in the Tournament.  That set a stage for potential intrigue, as a win by Farber and a win by Kohelet would leave three teams at 2-1.  According to Tournament Director Michael Gelber, the tie break rule in such instances is that of the three teams, the two that won their Saturday night games would advance to the Tournament Championship.  With such high stakes, each team came out with much to play for on Saturday night.

The first game matched up the Farber Fire of Detroit and the Cooper Macs of Memphis.  Looking for their first win and hoping to upset the Fire, Cooper came out with great intensity, and held Farber scoreless for the first minute and a half. Farber soon opened the scoring with a 3, but a few minutes later, Cooper tied the game at 5-5 and looked to have built some momentum.  The Fire then went on a run, and looked like they might squirrel away the game early.  But Cooper came to play, and would have none of it.  With the Fire staying with a full-court press, the Macs managed to get behind the defense and were able to convert some easy baskets, closing to within 4 of the Fire.  A late basket just before the buzzer gave the favored Fire a 27-21 lead at intermission.  the second half was a dogfight, with Farber looking to pull away, and Cooper answering every push, staying close.  With under two minutes to go, Farber was clinging to an 8-point lead.  With the clock winding down, the Macs played tight defense, but could not get that elusive turnover.  with 40 seconds left, they finally fouled.  Farber missed the front end of the one-and-one, and Cooper converted to make it a 6-point game, but they would get no closer.  Farber added a few free throws down the stretch before the buzzer sounded. Final score, 51-42, in favor of the Fire, securing them a spot in tomorrow’s Championship game.  Leading the way for Farber was again Jeremiah Wolf, who scored 18 points.  Coper was led in scoring by Benjamin Mendelsohn with 14 points.

The Farber win meant the final game of the night had great significance for both Kohelet and Flatbush – Win, and your in the championship.  The message certainly hit home with the hosts, and they came out with a unified purpose, blitzing the Philadelphians as they jumped out to a 21-1 advantage before the Kings hit on a three ball in the closing minutes of the opening quarter.  the Kings defense kicked in a bit in the second quarter, slowing down the Falcon attack, but they still struggled offensively.  At the half, Flatbush held a 39-11 advantage.

Halftime of the Saturday night nightcap at Hausdorff has its own level of fun, as it means raffle time!  18 winners were selected at random to shoot, in succession, a lay up then a free throw then a 3-pointer then finally a half-court shot.  You only shoot the next shot if you make the previous one.  In 22 year, no one has ever hit all 4 shots.  This year, someone came closer than anyone has ever come before.  Falcon Kal Abed, shooting for Perry Sanders, smoothly hit his first three shots, then stepped to midcourt.  He lofted the ball, and it came arcing down towards the basket, looking very much on target.  Hit hit the back rim, it hit the front rim, it hit the backboard . . . and bounced away!

The players returned for the second half, and Kohelet looked much refreshed after the intermission, but facing a huge task in trying to get back in to the game.  They worked hard, but the deficit was just too great.  The Kings got as close as 14 points down the stretch, but Flatbush managed to keep them at bay, securing the win, 56-40.  So the final piece of the puzzle was in place and the stage was set for Championship Sunday, with Cooper matching up with Kohelet for 3rd Place and Farber paired up with host Flatbush for the Championship of the 2nd Annual Hausdorff Tournament!  Flatbush’s Remy Zohni led all scorers with 13 points.  Kohelet was paced by Michael Batushansky who scored 12 points in the game.

NEST NOTES:  There are new times for the games on Championship Sunday.  The 3rd Place contest is scheduled to start at 10:00 am.  The Championship game will tip off at approximately 11:15 pm.  Banquet and award festivities will follow.

(Photos courtesy of Sarah Cohen and Frieda Maleh)