Community leader Jeff Kapelus has been running the Jewish Basketball League (JBL) for the past 15 years. In addition to providing a top-notch basketball product, JBL’s mission is to bring together families of all denominations and backgrounds throughout Westchester. JBL is about sportsmanship, a sense of community, life lessons and inclusiveness.
Kapelus is passionate about sports and stated, “Sports is a great vehicle to bring people together and teach life lessons that transcend sports.” He described JBL as “a recreational league that provides basketball instruction, competitive games and positive social interaction for boys and girls in the lower Westchester community. We encourage families—whether from SAR, WDS, Carmel, Solomon Schechter, Windward, Osborn, public schools and/or others—to interact and accept one another. The coming together of the local Jewish community is a goal we are very serious about.”
Each season, JBL enhances its clinics, introduces new ideas and drills, while preserving those practices, approaches and the sense of community that have been part of JBL for over a decade. JBL utilizes a core of experienced professional coaches, augmented by local high school varsity players from a variety of schools. Open to kindergartners through fourth grade for boys, and through sixth grade for girls, the sessions are played on Sundays, primarily at Schechter Upper School, with some sessions held at the Lower School in White Plains. Sessions are held from November through March.
Several years ago, the league established an everlasting award honoring the memories of Rabbi Jacob Rubenstein and Rebbetzin Debbie Rubenstein, z”l, who tragically perished in a house fire shortly before Passover in 2009. When Kapelus first started JBL in its current format, Rabbi Rubenstein encouraged his efforts and told Kapelus, “Don’t ever stop! Chaveri, you’re the one who gets it! You understand the importance of bringing everyone together and mixing them up, not compartmentalizing them based on schools or background.” The long-time rabbinical couple of Young Israel of Scarsdale, Rabbi and Rebbetzin Rubenstein were well-respected and known worldwide as individuals who encouraged tolerance and inclusiveness. With the JBL Rubenstein Award, the league is doing its part to honor their memory and values.
Congratulations to this year’s winners of JBL’s Rubenstein Memorial Coaching Award: Haley Wilenzick, Shoshana Eisenberg, Charlie Silverstein, Elan Roth and Jason Bloch. The award is presented to an outstanding coach in each division who exemplifies leadership, hard work, dedication, commitment, character, patience, sportsmanship, integrity and inclusiveness, core values espoused by the Rubensteins. Congratulations as well to the 2018-2019 third-fourth grade boys champions, the Lakers, who squeaked by the Thunder in an exciting nailbiter. A strong effort was made by the Rockets, who mounted a comeback in their close semifinal battle vs. the Thunder, and the Heat, who fought hard and refused to give up in their epic triple overtime semifinal thriller vs. the Lakers.
Although best known for running JBL, Kapelus served as a director, commissioner, coach and travel coach for Youth Basketball of New Rochelle (YBNR) for nearly a decade. Kapelus is also an active member of Young Israel of Scarsdale, where he served on the board of directors and is a regular holiday Torah reader. He sat on the board of Westchester Jewish Council (WJC) and is currently its security co-chair. He is a proud volunteer of CSS (Community Security Service), a volunteer security network that protects synagogues and specific Jewish events and has led Westchester outreach, imploring synagogues in Westchester to adopt an effective security program and implement appropriate protocols. He served on the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) Westchester Advisory Committee, where he focused his attention on its “Words to Action” program, an initiative designed to equip Jewish high school and college students to combat anti-Semitism, the BDS movement and bias on college campuses across the country. Kapelus has also sat on the board of AJC Westchester, where he served on its diplomatic outreach and college campus committees. Also active in UJA-Federation Westchester, Kapelus and his wife, Phyllis, have lived in Westchester for over 20 years.
To learn more about JBL and the Rubenstein Award or to enroll your child(ren) in JBL, please visit the website at www.jblhoops.org.
By Yvette Finkelstein