Amare Stoudemire – Jewish Journey

With Ed out of the office, was lucky to have Micah Sachs come back as a guest blogger.

When a celebrity declares his desire to get in touch with his Jewish roots, the Jewish community is wary. How serious can Madonna/Lindsey Lohan/Ashton Kutcher be, we wonder—without considering the irony that many of us are not particularly serious about our religion either.

So it’s no surprise that NBA star Amar’e Stoudemire’s recent trip to Israel to seek out his “Hebrew roots” was met with a sense of bemused skepticism, both inside and outside the Jewish community. It doesn’t help that he suggests, but never reveals, the source of his suspicion that his mother had Jewish roots. When pressed about whether he’s Jewish, he responds, “Through history, we all are.” The obsession with wearing a yarmulke on his trip and the Tweeting in basic Hebrew only add to the sense that Stoudemire doesn’t get it.

But what exactly doesn’t he get? That Judaism should not be embraced publicly? That one shouldn’t be vocal about one’s enthusiasm for learning about Judaism? That Jewishness is reserved only for those with Jewish genes? In outsize form (both metaphorically and literally—he is 6-foot-10), Stoudemire’s exploration of Judaism mirrors the experience of many converts, who often encounter skepticism both for their motives and for their practice. His evasiveness about his genetic connection to Judaism is a quiet rebuttal to those who would make Jewish identity contingent on maternity. In his claimed decision to celebrate Shabbat, observe Passover and fast during Yom Kippur (unless there’s a basketball game, in which case, he says, “I’ll have to eat”), he is embracing the most important part of Jewish life: its rituals. It doesn’t matter whether he is a member of a synagogue, or is an officially sanctioned Jew, he’s interested in Judaism purely because of what he feels it offers him spiritually and emotionally. It is an expansive and unorthodox (big and little “o”) approach to Judaism that is espoused by only a few radical voices, like Rabbi Irwin Kula.

Of greater concern from my perspective is how his newfound Judaism fits in with his older professed Christianity. He has a tattoo of the star of David on his left hand, yes, but he also has a tattoo declaring himself “Black Jesus” on his neck. In 2007, he told the Christian sports website “Beyond the Ultimate”:

Even though (my father) died when I was twelve, my mother made sure that Christianity continued to be a central part of my family’s life. That’s why I have such a strong faith today. Going to church helped me develop a relationship with Jesus, and that has given me something to lean on as I have worked to reach my goals.

In none of the articles about Stoudemire’s interest in Judaism does he address the place of Jesus in his belief system. It is certainly possible that his beliefs have changed. But if his beliefs haven’t changed, his exploration of Judaism and adoption of Jewish rituals may make him a Judeophile, but they won’t make him a Jew. 

One thought on “Amare Stoudemire – Jewish Journey”

  • Amare is proud to wear his yarmulke. But when it came to confessing he was Jewish he replied “Historically we all are!”  From a Christian standpoint, if you know the Torah, that of course is true. Christianity is derived from a Jewish first century sect called ” The Way” those that believed in the Messiah in the person of Yeshua.

    The followers of Yeshua were radically observant Jews. Some like the brother of Yeshua , the one gentiles call James,  would put today’s orthodox Jews to shame. He was called “James the Just!” probably from the root word “Justified” because he was one of the few that could enter the Holy of Holies.

      Amare possibly has a black Yeshua on his arm because Yeshua was as dark skinned as any Semite of the age, not a blond, blue eyed Scandinavian seen in the movies. Amare was talking to a reporter from a Christian Sports Network who recognized our heritage in Abraham. In fact an uprecented number of Christians are waking  up to the fact Yeshua was a Rabbi that elucidated the Torah and brought it to life in the people. His followers claimed he was the Jewish Messiah through whom the whold world could be saved and that gentiles would have to be ” grafted in” to the Jewish root.

    I don’t know if Amare could ever give up his belief and therefore his relationship with Yeshua as the Messiah. It is pretty hard to give up a Messiah who is living within you now for a Messiah David only dreamt about.
    But he feels he is reaching his destiny to worship the Lord of Israel, the God of Abraham, Jacob and Isaac in the way his Messiah wanted.

    By being Torah observant and keeping the Feasts of the Lord, not the pagan feasts of Easter and Christmas introduced to the Christian Church by the Roman Emporers starting with Constantine in 350 A.D., he is finding a deeper fullment. And so he should. After all isn’t is God’s plan the whole world comes to salvation through the Jews! Raise the Torah high! Torah for the World!”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *