By Judith Altneu

For Mitzpeh


Rutgers (Red) takes on Yeshiva (Halpert, in white) in their final preliminary game on Friday afternoon in the Armory (Judith Altneu/Mitzpeh)

The National Hillel Basketball Tournament (NHBT) returned to this university’s campus for the first time in two years, bringing hundreds of Jewish college students together from across the country for a basketball tournament from Friday to Sunday.

“For me, this was something that we really wanted to revive,” said senior applied math major and NHBT Director of Personnel Zev Traum. “The tournament hadn’t happened for two years, and we wanted to bring it back to the greatness that it was. We pushed really hard to make a lot of teams come.” This year’s seniors, including Traum, were freshmen the last time the tournament took place.

NHBT was a fully Shabbat-observant weekend, as the games were all before or after Shabbat to enable Jewish students of all backgrounds to participate. 200 players from 27 men’s teams and six women’s teams traveled across the country and competed for the chance to earn the “Kiddish Cup.”

The basketball tournament started on Friday with preliminary games as the men’s side had seven divisions of approximately four teams. On the women’s side there was one division. Based on their record in their university conference, the teams were placed into one of three tiers.

“I’m really enjoying it,” freshman business major Kayla Spern said on Friday. “We’ve had two games today and it’s a lot of fun. There’s a lot of good energy in the room.”

The teams spent the weekend at The Hotel and Shabbat at Maryland Hillel before elimination games started Saturday night and continued into Sunday. Games were played in the Armory and the School of Public Health gym on Friday and Saturday, with all of Sunday’s games played at the Armory.

There was a big crowd Saturday night at the Armory as 200 fans bought wristbands to watch the games. Fans stood and sat on the sidelines cheering on their schools or friends in the quarterfinals round.

Maryland’s women’s team earned the No. 4 seed in the women’s bracket but lost to No. 1 Binghamton in the semifinals. Binghamton went undefeated to claim the women’s championship.

Over on the men’s side it was an all Yeshiva University Tier 1 final, with No. 1 Yeshiva (Rossi) taking down No. 3 Yeshiva (Levieddin) in the final game of the tournament.

Maryland did have some success in the tournament, as the No. 8 seed Maryland (Kosowsky) team were the underdog story heading all the way to the Tier 2 championship. In the final, Maryland took down No. 6 Columbia, winning the Tier 2 championship.

No. 3 seed Baruch (Khalili) upset No. 1 Princeton in the final of the men’s Tier 3 bracket to win the Tier 3 championship.

The tournament allowed some players to reunite with their old friends from high school, camp and gap year programs.

“It was really nice seeing people who I haven’t [seen] in a very long time,” Rutgers senior Josh Greenwald said. “On the court we were competitive, off the court it was all love.”

Some players made new friends on and off the court throughout the weekend.

“It’s definitely a lot of fun, lived up to the expectations for sure,” said Baruch senior Sammy Salzman. “I met a bunch of guys here that I’ll probably keep in touch with.”

Traum says that NHBT has received great feedback from players and the board is already looking toward next year.


Blog at