Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

JAO students share home court with NBA star


Enes Kanter, center for the NBA's Oklahoma City Thunder, Hi-fives a JAO student during a surprise visit to the school.

How did Enes Kanter, center for the NBA's Oklahoma City Thunder, end up shooting hoops with Jewish Academy of Orlando students last month?

The story began when the Maitland Jewish Community Campus, along with Jewish communal institutions throughout the country, began receiving bomb threats in January. The Atlantic Institute of Central Florida reached out to the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando's Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) in sympathy and solidarity.

Federation Executive Director Olga Yorish and Community Relations Director Marli Porth had a productive meeting with Huseyin Peker, executive director of the Atlantic Institute, learning about each other's missions and goals. The Institute, whose mission is to facilitate dialogue and bridge cultures from multiple regions of the world, had recently honored Barbara Weinreich, a Federation board member and longtime Jewish community leader and volunteer, with its 2016 Peace and Dialog Award for actively promoting diversity and intercultural exchange in the Central Florida community.

"It was good to get to know Huseyin personally and to establish a friendly relationship between our organizations," Porth said.

So where does Enes Kanter enter the picture?

The Oklahoma City Thunder was scheduled to play the Orlando Magic at the Amway Center on March 29. The week before the game, Peker contacted Porth to ask whether JAO students would enjoy a visit from Kanter, a Turkish Muslim who was selected third overall in the 2011 NBA draft.

With some quick scheduling between the Atlantic Institute, JCRC and the Jewish Academy, the stage was set for Kanter's visit, and the 6-foot-11 pro made his surprise appearance-to the delight of JAO students-on March 29. While on the Maitland campus, he spoke with the students and answered questions about life in the NBA and growing up in Turkey-and what it's like to be so tall. Students in the fifth grade even got to play basketball with Kanter, and all of the students had an opportunity to take a class picture with him.

"Enes is a wonderful global ambassador for basketball," said Alan Rusonik, head of the JAO. "We were so happy to welcome him to our school."

To see a video of the JAO students' "game" with Kanter, search @Jewish_Academy on Twitter.


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