Southern & Jewish
Southern & Jewish celebrates the stories, people, and experiences – past and present – of Jewish life in the American South. Hosted by the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, posts come from educators, students, rabbis, parents, artists, and many other “visitors-to and daily-livers-of” the Southern Jewish experience. From road trips to recipes to reflections, we’ll explore a little bit of everything – well, at least all things Southern and/or Jewish. Shalom, y’all!
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome to this year’s Mensch Madness final game!
In this year’s tournament, we have seen some truly riveting games. But today’s match-up is something different all together. Different generations, different styles, different identities, but big brains on both sides: Nehama Leibowitz has home court advantage as is the odds-on favorite as she takes on the visiting Moses Maimonidies, AKA Rambam.
Leibowitz’s modest and reserved approach may turn out to be her strength against one of the chief authority’s fast paced interpretive play. Not only will Leibowitz’s modesty work to her advantage, but she also has another advantage: her age. Nechama is a whopping 770 years younger than the underdog Maimonides , which will most likely help her run him up and down the court. Will the ancient scholar be able to keep up?
That’s it for the pre-game show folks let’s get down to business… it’s time for tip off!
And old man Maimonides wins the ball at the start! Even in his old age Maimonides can still jump like a young kid. Leibowitz is playing full court press to try and pressure her opponent into making some sort of simple error– but with Maimonides’ skill and commitment to interpretive and innovative dribbling skills, he is able to drive right through Nehama and put up an easy layup. He maintains the ball for the next several scores in this grueling game.
Uh-oh, what’s this? After Maimonides’ first points, it looks like he had the wind knocked out of him. Leibowitz is now scoring point after point after point, putting Maimonides in his place. With thirty seconds left in the first half Leibowitz is leading, 53-30. After Leibowitz’s three pointer, Maimonides is standing under his basket trying to catch his breath. He looks up to the shot clock and sees that there are only thirty seconds left in the first half, so he doesn’t need to worry about a shot clock. He then takes the ball up the court, but this time his demeanor is completely different: he is relaxed and playful.
Dribbling between his legs and around Nehama, Maimonides drives to the three point line then looks at the clock. There are only three seconds left! He steps back takes a jump shot from the edge of the three point line and watches it fall through the net as time runs out. Ending on that positive note put a smile on his face and is a bit of a damper to Nehama’s otherwise extraordinary first half.
…..Aaaaaaaannd we’re back, live from the Mensch Madness final between Moses Maimonides and Nehama Leibowitz. At the end of the first half we saw a different side of the one nicknamed Rambam– a more relaxed side. Nehama, meanwhile, kept true to her non-derech playing style. She took what she had seen from previous Mensch Madness match-ups to take on Maimonides, and so far it has worked out for her– but as we start the second half we will see how much longer she will be able to keep legendary player Maimonides at bay.
Nehama begins to bring the ball up the court but is stripped of possession by Maimonides who then drives and dunks attempting to do his best Michael Jordan impression. Then once again as Leibowitz is about to shoot, Maimonides swats her shot right out of the air. The crowd erupts as he hustles down the court to put up the easy layup.
Leibowitz keeps turning the ball over, possession after possession, allowing her opponent to almost tie it up at 74-73. Leibowtiz is still in the lead, but there is one minute left in the game and Maimonides has been on a roll. Nehama is taking the ball up the court and is about to shoot but then Maimonides comes ram-bam-barreling in and fouls her.
At the free throw line, Leibowtiz is visibly nervous. She centers herself with the basket, shoots…and misses the first free throw. She still has one shot and can go up by two. She centers herself again then shoots and puts this one in with ease. Maimonides looks up at the score board to see that there are fifteen seconds left to make it all the way down the court to put in a two pointer to tie it and send it into overtime or a three pointer to win it in regulation. He takes his time to set up and make it down to the three point arc. He looks to the scoreboard again to check the time and with five seconds left he makes the split second decision that there would be no overtime he would either win the game with a buzzer beating three pointer, or lose it all…
One last dribble as he steps back beyond the three point line. Nehama is closing in trying to block his shot. As she is raising her hands, he gets the shot off. It’s flying through the air as the buzzer sounds! The ball jumps off the backboard, then starts to roll around the rim. The crowd is holding their collective breath and the ball keeps spinning, and spinning…then it falls in to the net and the crowd goes wild! Chants of RAM-BAM, RAM-BAM are echoing through the arena.
Moses Maimonides throws his arms up in celebration! He has won Mensch Madness 2016. He then accepts a heartfelt Mazel tov from Nehama Leibowitz, as both formidable opponents wave to their cheering fans.
It’s been a great playoff season, sports fans! Thanks for tuning in!
 Rambam was born in 1135 CE
 Nechama Leibowitz claimed that she did not teach any of her own interpretations, only what the commentaries she read stated.