Say ‘shalom’ to Tulane’s newest player, Aaron Liberman

Transfer sophomore Aaron Liberman is known to be the third Orthodox Jew to play in Division 1 Basketball for the NCAA. Liberman wears a yarmulke at all times including games. 

Jonathan Harvey, Online Sports Editor

Known as the ‘Jewish Dwight Howard,’ 6-foot-10 sophomore transfer center Aaron Liberman and third recorded practicing Orthodox Jew to play Division I basketball in NCAA history lives on the top floor of the Chabad House.

Liberman transferred from Northwestern to Tulane this summer following coaching changes at his previous school. Liberman wanted a school that had prestigious academics along with a supportive Jewish community.

Liberman lives the typical life of an Orthodox Jew, following the religion’s restrictions and self-discipline. On the Sabbath, the Jewish day of rest, Liberman cannot use electronics and has to walk to get wherever the Green Wave are playing.

Liberman, however, has no issue playing on the Sabbath.

“There’s nothing wrong with playing basketball on the Sabbath,” Liberman said. “Back at Northwestern, we had a practice once, and I had to walk six miles to practice, practice and walk six miles back.”

Tulane Athletics is still working with the NCAA to determine whether Liberman is eligible to suit up for the Wave this season because of transfer regulations. Tulane Athletics will supply a customized Tulane home and away yarmulke for Liberman so he can continue follow Jewish religious practices.

Head coach Ed Conroy said Tulane will do all that is possible to accommodate Liberman’s needs.

“We will sit down with [Liberman] and talk to him to hear what he needs to continue to practice his faith and we will make those accommodations,” Conroy said. 

Liberman, who was the first player to wear a yarmulke in the Big Ten during a game, wore an Under Armor designed yarmulke while playing for Northwestern. Liberman said that wearing a yarmulke is a sense of pride for the Orthodox community. 

“It’s something to distinguish ourselves,” Liberman said. “I can’t obviously do everything the team can do. I keep Kosher and can’t eat certain things they’re eating, so wearing a yarmulke always reminds me that I’m different and is a constant reminder that I can’t do things that everyone else can do.”

Liberman is also the first player to wear tzizit, the fringes that are on the four corners of the tallit, a prayer shawl, underneath his jersey during games.

Liberman said being the only Jewish player on the team is not a problem, though he joked he can’t play video games with the team on the Sabbath. Through Liberman’s basketball career, he said he has never faced any anti-Semitism.  

“Everywhere I’ve [played], I’ve never heard an anti-Semitic remark,” Liberman said. “I’ve actually had support from opposing team fans, which has been really crazy.”

Liberman is also a role model for young aspiring Jewish basketball players.

“Back in Chicago I would go around to the schools, and all the kids knew who I was,” Liberman said. “I definitely know the position I’m in. I’m definitely a role model to a lot of kids, so I have to make sure I keep everything good and be a good role model for them.”

Conroy said he hopes Liberman can add a much-needed strong defensive presence to the Wave, but will not put pressure on the transfer. 

“[Liberman] brings a lot of energy to what we are doing,” Conroy said. “He really moves well for being a big guy and is a presence on blocking shots, protecting the rim, and also being active on the board.”

“I am just excited to see his potential, how much he can help us out, and how much he can grow as a basketball player,” Conroy said.

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