Let Them Play
An Anonymous Wolfpack writer contributed to the editing of this article.
Several weeks ago, Shalhevet High School released a statement, along with an article by the Boiling Point, that they would refuse to play Valley Torah’s boys’ basketball team until Valley Torah replaces Head Coach Lior Schwartzberg. Shalhevet alleges that Coach Schwartzberg provided the Palm Springs High School Indians with extensive information, including the Shalhevet Firehawks’ game footage and plays. The Indians, to whom Shalhevet lost in the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) quarterfinals, denied that any real information was shared, corroborating Coach Schwartzberg. “I knew he didn’t have any video, because [Valley Torah] hasn’t played them,” said the Indians Coach, Chris Howard. “All he gave me was advice, from past years, to play zone.”
Shalhevet Coach Ryan Coleman’s claim that Valley Torah had been attending the majority of their games in order to gather intimate knowledge of Shalhevet’s plays seems exaggerated. “I never spent a night watching Shalhevet play and focusing on scouting them this season. Not one night,” Coach Schwartzberg said in an interview with The Scroll. “I … did not pay particular attention to Shalhevet because we did not have them on our CIF schedule this year.”
After a game in the subsequent Sarachek tournament, Coach Ryan Coleman approached Coach Schwartzberg to emphasize his displeasure and feelings of animosity. “[Coach Ryan Coleman] proceeded to say that I am ‘dead to him’ and to stay away from him, any of his players, and anything that has to do with him, and he walked away,” said Coach Schwartzberg in an interview with The Scroll.
When approached to discuss Coach Lior Schwartzberg and the events described in the Boiling Point article, Ryan Coleman told The Scroll, “I don’t know who that is,” and that he had no interest in commenting further.
Coach Coleman was quoted in the Boiling Point article saying that “I would never give a detailed scouting report about somebody who I was friends with in the coaching industry,” However, earlier in the basketball season, the same rule had clearly not applied. When Shalhevet played YULA, whom Valley Torah was scheduled to play a few days later, both of Shalhevet’s coaches, Ryan Coleman and Jeff Remer, were “more than happy” to share both game footage and advice on playing YULA. Valley Torah had not been in attendance to watch the game, so the information was instrumental in the subsequent game against Valley Torah’s and Shalhevet’s mutual rival.
In an article by the Boiling Point, Coach Coleman paraphrased Indians Coach Howard, saying that Coach Howard admitted that he had received information from Coach Schwartzberg. In an interview with The Scroll, the Palm Springs Coach wanted to set the record straight. “I told him to give the win to Lior, but it was just a little ribbing, because I know about the rivalry between [Shalhevet and Valley Torah].” When asked about sharing information between coaches, he described it as, “Very common… Any time teams play each other, they get information from other coaches.”
I think that we should continue to play Shalhevet, there’s no reason not to. We should stick together as Jewish schools… it’s very important for us to stick together, and these basketball games are key to cement our relationships.Yosee Kreitenberg (’20), Student Council Vice President, Varsity Student-Athlete
So how does this situation stand from a Torah standpoint?
According to Rabbi Gershon Bess, one of the leading halachic authorities in Los Angeles, Shalhevet’s accusations are “very wrong unless they have clear proof, and even then, what was the purpose other than to disgrace a person?” Rabbi Bess also made it clear that “making [Coach Schwartzberg] lose a job… is definitely forbidden according to halacha unless there is clear proof of wrongdoing, and to the extent that he is deserving of losing his job, many infractions would not reach such a level, so pushing for [additional punishment] is forbidden.”
The Scroll attempted to contact Rabbi Segal hoping to discuss the halachic ramifications of the article, but he respectfully declined.
Regardless of whatever occurred in the past, Valley Torah has no qualms about playing Shalhevet in the future, regardless of whether anything occured. “I don’t believe that this justifies separating us and bringing us further apart,” said Rabbi Stulberger. “It’s a statement of separation, it’s a statement of division.” Yosee Kreitenberg, a player on the Valley Torah Boys Varsity Team and member of Student Council, told The Scroll, “I think that we should continue to play Shalhevet, there’s no reason not to. We should stick together as Jewish schools… it’s very important for us to stick together, and these basketball games are key to cement our relationships.” They aren’t alone in their opinions. Several Shalhevet students, who asked to remain anonymous, said that they disagreed with Shalhevet’s decision to stop playing. “I just don’t think they should have done it; [not playing one another] was not the right course of action,” one Shalhevet student said. “Personally, I would like them to reconcile,” said another.
In this day and age, it’s important to remember the inherent bond that exists between all Jews, that achdus is the most crucial part of life in galus. In the Chassidic text Hayom Yom, it says that Bnei Yisrael have a tradition from the Baal Shem Tov, that when someone hears something derogatory about another Jew, even a stranger, one should be sorely distressed, since somebody must be grievously wrong – if the derogatory story is true, then the subject is wrong; if the story is false then the one who told the tale has violated a klal gadol ba’Torah, the very essence of the Torah.
The consensus from the community seems to be that the road ahead should be one of reconciliations, of forgiveness, and of achdus. Let Them Play.