Surprise: Yeshiva University’s Maccabees Have the Longest Winning Streak in the History of Men’s College Basketball

Since Elliot Steinmetz took over as the head basketball coach at Yeshiva University (YU)—a predominantly Orthodox school in Manhattan that offers rabbinic ordination along with conventional degrees—the team has won 69 percent of its games, with a record-making streak this season. Its best player, the six-foot-seven Ryan Turell, turned down athletic scholarships at schools with Division I teams so that he could continue his religious studies at YU; the NBA has nonetheless shown interest in him. Gary Belsky describes what makes the team unique:

Yeshiva’s subordination of athletics to almost everything else is unusual, even for a Division III school. “There’s no pressure from boosters on coaches,” the athletic director, Greg Fox, says. “There’s no pressure from coaches on professors or admissions. Zero. Student-athletes are expected to fulfill both their undergraduate Torah studies and general-studies class requirements.” Practice on most days is at 6 am, before morning prayer services. The result is a team of players who present as notably thoughtful and balanced, sometimes to an almost unbelievable extreme.

Gabriel Leifer, [another of the team’s star players], who’s all of twenty-two, is gearing up for his final season while navigating the demands of his second year of marriage, his first year of grad school, and the early months of a full-time job as a real-estate tax associate for the global consulting giant PwC.

Steinmetz knew all the obstacles and saw opportunity. “I thought if I could get top-level Orthodox kids to ‘stay home,’ [i.e., attend YU rather than a school with a Division I basketball team], we could build something great,” says the coach, whose team hasn’t had a losing season since he took over.

Read more at ESPN

More about: Modern Orthodoxy, Sports, Yeshiva University

Israel Is Courting Saudi Arabia by Confronting Iran

Most likely, it was the Israeli Air Force that attacked eastern Syria Monday night, apparently destroying a convoy carrying Iranian weapons. Yoav Limor comments:

Israel reportedly carried out 32 attacks in Syria in 2022, and since early 2023 it has already struck 25 times in the country—at the very least. . . . The Iranian-Israeli clash stands out in the wake of the dramatic events in the region, chiefly among them is the effort to strike a normalization deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and later on with various other Muslim-Sunni states. Iran is trying to torpedo this process and has even publicly warned Saudi Arabia not to “gamble on a losing horse” because Israel’s demise is near. Riyadh is unlikely to heed that demand, for its own reasons.

Despite the thaw in relations between the kingdom and the Islamic Republic—including the exchange of ambassadors—the Saudis remain very suspicious of the Iranians. A strategic manifestation of that is that Riyadh is trying to forge a defense pact with the U.S.; a tactical manifestation took place this week when Saudi soccer players refused to play a match in Iran because of a bust of the former Revolutionary Guard commander Qassem Suleimani, [a master terrorist whose militias have wreaked havoc throughout the Middle East, including within Saudi borders].

Of course, Israel is trying to bring Saudi Arabia into its orbit and to create a strong common front against Iran. The attack in Syria is ostensibly unrelated to the normalization process and is meant to prevent the terrorists on Israel’s northern border from laying their hands on sophisticated arms, but it nevertheless serves as a clear reminder for Riyadh that it must not scale back its fight against the constant danger posed by Iran.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Saudi Arabia, Syria