July 14, 2024
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Table Tennis Tournament at Shomrei Torah: Competition, Charity and Nostalgia

Fair Lawn—Shomrei Torah: the home of a vibrant congregation… and of a ping pong competition? On the night of October 31, Shomrei Torah hosted its first annual Table Tennis Tournament, which doubled as a fundraiser for over 20 charities. The event was a part of the shul’s Torah Tuesday programming, which is run by event coordinator Mendy Aron. (Torah Tuesday runs classes and breakfasts every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday morning, open to the public at no charge.)

The event also served (no tennis pun intended) as a throwback to the ‘50s and ‘60s. According to Aron, back in the ‘60s, table tennis was all the rage so he decided to make the event a nostalgic experience for both that decade and the preceding one. The tables were adorned with Tootsie Rolls, candy buttons, and Bonomo taffy; hot pretzels were served alongside the pizza and fries; and shul member Irving Gerber concocted egg creams for anyone interested in tasting a blast from the past.

“In 1950, I was 15 years old,” Gerber said. “For me, the time of the ‘50s was childhood, happiness, it was growing up… It was a different time, a very special time.” Beyond his own personal experience, Gerber said that “the fact that Israel was a new state” and “a source of pride and happiness” also made the decade special. “The ‘50s were a time of carefree, happiness, school, planning for the future.” On a slightly more melancholic note, he mentioned, “[Because of Israel,] we thought that the era of anti-Semitism was over. It should’ve been.”

Each player in the tournament had chosen a charity to support via sponsorships. The tournament itself started off with thirteen matches, and even the heads of Shomrei Torah and Fair Lawn got in on the action. Rabbi Benjamin Yudin faced off with shul member Michael Reinheimer, while Rabbi Markowitz played against his wife Sara, and shul president Oren Hiller took on the mayor of Fair Lawn, John Cosgrove. Even though the mayoral elections were only three days away, Cosgrove still came out for a break from the campaign trail (which he said was “really great”).

“The members of the shul asked me to come here tonight, to enjoy this great evening with ping pong and some great friends here,” Cosgrove said. When asked about his relationship with the shul, he said, “I’ve known Rabbi Yudin for many years; I have a great deal of respect for him and for a lot of the shul [members]; it’s really great to see this community thriving.”

The matches themselves ran the gamut from calm to intense. For instance, when Steve Mittman played against David Shalomayev, their moves were composed and focused. But when Brian Glass played Ari Ashkenas, the ball often hit the net or missed the table completely, plummeting to the floor.

All of the players sported custom tournament T-shirts, as did the head referee and the ball boys and girls. The ball boys and girls, many of whom were children or grandchildren of the players, watched the games with rapt attention and fetched the ping pong balls if they ever rolled onto the floor. One of the ball girls, Dede Horowitz from Yeshivat He’Atid, called the job “exhausting” but also enjoyable.

The final round saw Dima Yuster play against Jay Hirschhorn. Both used controlled, arcing strokes; at one point, Yuster spiked the ball down into Hirschhorn’s side. In the end, Yuster emerged victorious and received the winner’s trophy, while Hirschhorn accepted the runner’s-up award.

“The fact that we’re playing for charity is great,” said Yuster after his triumph. “I’ve always loved playing ping pong and it’s nice to donate to my favorite charities [Yeshivat He’Atid and Shomrei Torah] through a sport I love. All of the competitors were amazing and I’d like to thank Shomrei Torah for hosting this.”

By Oren Oppenheim

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