Last night on C-SPAN, former All-American Cali Rabin-Havt tells a story that must be shared.
In 1974, while growing up, Rabin-Havt was banned from playing for the Jewish team at her school. She had to sit on the bench until the day before the last game, when the Jews and the non-Jews faced off.
“And the vice principal said to me, when he turned and saw me, he was smiling,” Rabin-Havt told C-SPAN last night. “And I just looked at him and I thought he was smiling because I was being tossed out and not able to play. It was pure black and white to me. There was no room for anything else.”
When she went to court to fight it, she had to sit in the room with everyone else until she won. Rabin-Havt was only 18 years old at the time, but knew deep in her soul that she wanted to be on the same team as her friends. She was never alone in that fight, she said, but if people had understood there was an ongoing battle on their hands, they might not have viewed a plan to take away the automatic bid for an NIT champion like Stanford or Syracuse as a good thing.
In that game, at tiny Cal State Northridge, the Jews won 71-69. And some of the Jews who were finally able to watch their own game, saw Rabin-Havt sinking three pointers in the first half.
In that moment, she says, she realized “that both sides were trying to do the same thing,” which was keep Jewish students from playing basketball, and Jewish kids from playing on their own teams.
“And I felt so guilty to be treated so differently, because I, at that time, we were fighting a war, and we were an oppressed minority,” Rabin-Havt said. “We were subject to racial slurs every single day that we were on campus, and yet we were marching into war against a foreign power. And we knew who was going to take us to war; it wasn’t the pro-Israel lobby, it was the Arab lobby.
“And I also felt awful that Jewish students like me were not able to play on a Jewish team. I was forced to sit on the bench and I realized that that, that was like our fight, all the way from here, through every level of basketball, all the way to the ballgame itself.”
Last night, Cali Rabin-Havt reminded us that any time you turn a battle into a war, it’s usually a loss for everyone.
And, it always is.