By Georgia Slater
For the Mitzpeh
The Terps may have been booted out of March Madness, but that’s not the end of all things basketball this season at this university; the National Hillel Basketball Tournament is just around the corner.
Founded in 2010 by UMD student Rachel Epstein, the NHBT is held annually during the spring semester at Maryland Hillel as the premier event for athletes for all students who attend their respective Hillels, according to the Hillel website. This year, over 500 athletes made up of 51 teams from 36 schools will be competing for the prized “Kiddush Cup” in the tournament, which will be taking place on Thursday, March 30 through Sunday, April 2.
Epstein started the tournament as a means of bringing students together, but she never thought it would turn into the phenomenon that it has. The small event comprised of events, Jewish culture, and competition has now turned into one of the largest gatherings of Hillel students in the country.
“Organizing the tournament is a very lengthy and rigorous process,” said sophomore graphic design and marketing major Hannah Shams, Public Relations writer for NHBT.
A committee of undergraduate UMD students from all across the country, with differing interests and backgrounds, spends an immense amount of time over the year to help put the event together. “They are one of the hardest working student groups on campus,” said Shams.
“The process begins the day right after the previous year’s tournament ends. NHBT is a year-round effort and preparation is taken very seriously,” said Shams. “The co-chairs of the tournament go through a rigorous application process where they analyze and interview dozens of applicants at which point they decide, along with other returning members of the committee, who to choose.”
Senior finance and accounting major and NHBT co-chairman Avi Kozlowski attributed the success of NHBT to the extremely hard-working team behind it.
“The organization is run efficiently and well because of the students that are willing to volunteer their time and put in five to 10 hours of work a week to further benefit the tournament,” said Kozlowski, a finance and accounting major. “When you have 24 people all putting in the time together and are extremely passionate about the work that they’re doing, it really makes a difference. Our motto every year it to make the tournament even bigger and better than ever before.”
Sophomore economics and public policy major and NHBT Campus Recruiter Mia Carmel said she is looking forward to finally seeing where all the executive board’s hard work has gone in this year’s tournament. “I volunteered for the tournament last year at a waitress for the Shabbat dinner and I saw the power and community that people felt during the weekend,” said Carmel. “Since then I wanted to be a part of it.”
Sophomore journalism major Alicia Cherem previously heard about the event and loves the idea that students are putting on the tournament solely to let everybody else have fun. “The board doesn’t gain anything more than creating an amazing event for other teams from around the country to simply come and play together,” said Cherem.
This year’s tournament has grown since previous years. Teams from as far as Berkeley,California, to Texas, along with hundreds of fans, come to Maryland to participate. For the first time this year the tournament is going to be held in the Xfinity Center, home of the Maryland Terrapins basketball team.
The main component of the tournament is centered on basketball, but with over 2,000 people estimated to attend the event, there will be many other things going on as well. On Thursday evening there will be a bar night in D.C. after all the players have checked into their hotels and received their gear for the weekend. The rest of the weekend will follow with a 700-person Shabbat dinner in Ritchie Coliseum, an awards ceremony and a speech from Archie Talley, a former Harlem Globetrotters player, Kozlowski said.
“The impact of the tournament has reached new heights—bigger and stronger committee, countless opportunities, endless possibilities,” said Shams.“Overall, NHBT has become the number one event in Hillel colleges everywhere.”