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Player Toys With Converting to Join Tel Aviv

But becoming Jewish requires more than standing on one foot

Marc Tracy
September 27, 2011
Taylor King in 2008.(Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Taylor King in 2008.(Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Taylor King, an itinerant college basketball player, posted quite the Facebook update earlier today. Apparently Maccabi Tel Aviv has its eyes on him, but, it seems, he is only worth something to them if he can avoiding cutting into their foreign-player quota, which is to say, he is only worth something to them if he is an Israeli citizen. “Who is jewish?” he asks [all sic]. “I’m catholic and need to convert to Judaism ASAP. Anyone kno what I have to do and how long it takes? If I become Jewish im bout to get f***** paid babeh. Maccabi tel aviv in isreal want me to play for them but all I gotta do is convert to Judaism….lol.”

To some, though, this is no LOLing matter. To begin with, Jacquelyn King, who I assume is his sister, posted, “You’re a dumbass,” and, “Moms going to flip her shit, yeah I just went there.” And how should Jews feel about this? I called up Rabbi Andy Bachman of Park Slope’s Congregation Beth Elohim for his take, as both Jewish scholar and sports fan. “Given that he has not been mulling this over as a spiritual thing for quite some time, I’d say most people would ask him to study with a rabbi for a year,” a skeptical Bachman told me. “Then he has to renounce Catholicism and renounce his relationship to Jesus.” And that’s not all: “entering the covenant is both conceptual,” Bachman said, and literal: “he has to be willing to submit to circumcision and mikvah.”

King (who, it must be said, already has the surname for it) must have consulted somebody, too, because he soon posted: “Believe me if the process to convert wasn’t so difficult I would have done it by now cuz the $ they are offering is absurd.” Er, yeah, maybe this isn’t the best of motives.

Still, Bachman, while not too hopeful in King’s specific case, did cite a famous story from the Talmud, in which somebody approaches the great rabbis Shammai and Hillel about becoming Jewish, because he wants to be a Jewish priest. “Shammai was annoyed with the guy and kicked him out,” Bachman related (typical). “Hillel brought him in, started teaching him.” The man soon learned, of course, that even if he became a Jew, he could not become a priest—his studying taught him that you have to be born into that job. Yet the story has a happy ending, according to Bachman: “his motivations were misdirected, but then he realized he wanted to live his life as a Jew anyway.”

… Taylor King, you are not that guy.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.