Modern Maccabees

Mayim Bialik producing movie on Yeshiva U’s basketball win streak

New film will focus on US college team’s coach when it won 50 straight games from 2019 to 2021; screenwriter: Coach ‘shares my determination to prove Jews can be whatever we want’

Head coach Elliot Steinmetz talks to the Yeshiva University Maccabees in the locker room after they beat US Merchant Marine Academy, 75-57, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020. (AP Photo/Jessie Wardarski)
Head coach Elliot Steinmetz talks to the Yeshiva University Maccabees in the locker room after they beat US Merchant Marine Academy, 75-57, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020. (AP Photo/Jessie Wardarski)

JTA — From 2019 to 2021, the Yeshiva University men’s basketball team embarked on a 50-game win streak — vaulting to the top of the NCAA’s national Division III rankings and enrapturing Jewish fans across the country.

Now, the YU Maccabees’ historic run is headed to the big screen, courtesy of Mayim Bialik, the Jewish actress and former “Jeopardy!” host.

“The Maccabees,” a film by Bialik’s Sad Clown Productions, will spotlight the team’s coach, Elliot Steinmetz, a lawyer who has coached the team since 2014, according to Deadline. It will focus on players’ dedication to Judaism as they embarked on the streak.

In a statement to Deadline, Bialik spoke of announcing the film in what “has certainly been a complicated year,” adding that “what remains true is that stories of Jewish ingenuity, perseverance, and resilience are necessary more than ever.”

The film’s writer, Matt Ritter, said he hopes “The Maccabees” dispels negative perceptions of Jews at a time of rising antisemitism.

“I too have been troubled by the barrage of antisemitism in the world and one thing that has always bothered me was the negative portrayals and stereotypes,” he wrote on Instagram. “It feels like we’re either Holocaust victim or Schlub. Well this team of exceptional athletes and winners at Yeshiva University did something really special. They went on an epic winning streak led by a Coach who shares my determination to prove Jews can be whatever we want: including great athletes.”

Yeshiva forward Michael Bixon hugs forward Daniel Katz, back to camera, after the team’s 102-83 win over Penn State-Harrisburg in the second round of the NCAA men’s Division III college basketball tournament, March 7, 2020, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Jessie Wardarski)

Steinmetz told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency he is aware of the project but is not heavily involved, and declined to comment further.

At the time, YU’s streak was the longest active winning streak in men’s college basketball, and garnered significant national attention for the flagship modern Orthodox university.

Ryan Turell, a guard and the star of the team, went on to play two seasons with the Motor City Cruise, becoming the first Orthodox Jew in the NBA’s minor league, called the G League. He is now headed to play professionally in Israel’s top basketball league. Turell was also featured in an Amazon Prime documentary last year about the G League.

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