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To: Amar'e Stoudemire, New York Knicks
From: Dick Friedman
I have followed with fascination and pride your discovery of your Jewish roots (on your mother's side) and your immersion into our culture, including your recent visit to Israel. (Gotta love the yarmulke!) However, I worry that there is a part of our heritage you might be neglecting: the sports side. It involves the book on Isiah more than the Book of Isaiah. Here is my Talmudic advice.
• Honor thy forefathers. Koufax . . . Greenberg . . . Stoudemire? Suddenly, you are in the discussion as to who is the greatest Jewish athlete of all time. Learn the lore: for instance, how in 1934 Hammerin' Hank sat out on Yom Kippur in the heat of a pennant race. The lessons of Rabbi Auerbach of Boston and Rabbi Holzman of New York will be instructive and inspiring.
• Be observant . . . but not overly. The High Holidays (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) are in September this year and thus don't conflict with training camp. Orthodox Jews wouldn't play on the Sabbath (from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday), and the Knicks usually are scheduled for Friday nights. Oy vey! The first Passover Seder is on April 18, and the postseason begins two days before. If New York does make the playoffs, go easy on the pregame matzo balls, O.K., boychick?
• Tattoos are not kosher. Says the Torah, "You shall not make gashes in your flesh for the dead, or incise any marks on yourselves: I am the Lord" (Leviticus 19:28). No appealing this one.
• Raise the bar mitzvah bar. Increasingly adults are being bar mitzvahed. Go for it! My gift (instead of a fountain pen) is three words that meld the NBA and Jewish lifestyles: Vegas, baby, Vegas!
• Bank on it: Your mom now will want you to be a doctor. Or a lawyer . . . or an accountant. Just tell her that every Jewish doctor, lawyer and accountant wants to be a power forward.