By: Mayer Fink | Features  | 

In the Wake of the Virus, the Macs Give us Hope

It has been a rough, crazy and confusing week for students of Yeshiva University. Only last Sunday, I was sitting in the Max Stern Athletic Center watching the Macs win the Skyline Conference and head to the NCAA Division III Tournament for only the second time in school history. While reading articles about this historic run, I felt fortunate to be a part of Yeshiva University and anticipated further joy and excitement for our institution.

I was wrong. 

On Tuesday I heard reports of someone in the Jewish community who contracted the coronavirus; at the time, it was reported that his son, who attends YU, was showing symptoms of the virus. At first, I didn’t think that these reports would result in anything serious — certainly not the cancellation of classes and Purim festivities. By Wednesday morning, the student was confirmed to have tested positive for coronavirus and all undergraduate classes and events were canceled through March 15 (initially March 10). Everyone on campus Wednesday morning was not only worried for themselves — taking additional hygienic precautions for their own safety — but worried for the family that was affected by the virus, spending much time praying for their safety. That afternoon, I fled across the George Washington Bridge back to my hometown — others were not as fortunate. 

Initially, there was a lot of uncertainty. How long would we be told to stay home? How long is YU going to be shut down for? Would the coronavirus continue to spread to more communities, leaving devastation in its wake? Through all the tension I remembered that the Macs were set to play in Baltimore on Friday. Would the game also be affected by the virus? 

I found out Thursday afternoon the team was getting the paranoid treatment expected for a university in which a student tested positive for the virus. The DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Pikesville refused to host the team for the weekend. No fans were allowed to attend any of the weekend’s games in the Goldfarb Gymnasium, regardless of whom they supported. Through all this, I received an update that Rabbi Reuven Fink (no relation) — who gives two classes at the Isaac Breuer College (IBC) and is the rabbi of the Young Israel of New Rochelle — tested positive for the virus. The fear grew denser throughout the Orthodox Jewish community.

On Friday afternoon, I heard that the Macs’ game got moved from the scheduled 1:00 p.m. start to 2:20 p.m. I suddenly suspected that the game wouldn’t happen at all — fortunately, they played amidst the uncertainty and doubt. After days of tension and fear, I was watching the first NCAA Division III Tournament game being played in an empty basketball gym. The Macs put on a spectacular performance, winning their 28th game in a row by a score of 102-78 as Ryan Turell scored a career-high 41 points. The week began with a Macs victory and ended with a Macs victory.

That Shabbos was quiet for me. I didn’t go out much and I can’t imagine many did. Nobody in shul shook hands, everybody went for the valued Purell hand sanitizer, and the theme of every Shabbos speech and casual conversation was about the virus.

I found out on Saturday night that the Macs would face Penn State-Harrisburg. The Nittany Lions pulled off an upset victory over Johns Hopkins on Friday night. However, after a struggle in the first half that saw 15 lead changes, the Macs proved too much for the Nittany Lions and won their 29th game in a row by 19 points, earning a spot in the Division III Sweet 16. Yeshiva University continues its quest to win its first national championship in school history. 

Before the coronavirus scare, we rallied around the Macs as a symbol of pride for our institution. Now we look at them as a symbol of hope. As a university that seems to not have a day go by without a negative news story, it’s nice to finally see positive headlines. Sports have little impact on our day-to-day lives, but we can occasionally rally behind and take pride in a team that represents Yeshiva and gives us hope.

Photo Caption: Ryan Turell slamming down a basket as the Macs progress to the Sweet 16
Photo Credit: Yeshiva Athletics