Skip To Content
Fast Forward

Former NBA Star Was Inspired By Amar’e Stoudemire – And Lakewood – To Convert To Judaism

Image by Facebook

Chris Smith, a former New York Knicks point guard, recently signed with the Israeli team Ironi Nahariya. But the deal wasn’t just a career move.

Smith reportedly converted to Judaism and said he was inspired both by growing up around Jews in New Jersey and by his one-time teammate Amar’e Stoudemire to take this spiritual path.

“I really felt connected, a connection to the religion,” Smith told the New York Post on Thursday. “Growing up in Lakewood and the Jewish community aspect there, then being with the Knicks and being with Amar’e, triggered a lot of my interest. As he was bringing in Hebrew and Judaism books to the locker room, it struck my interest even more.”

Stoudemire is a stakeholder in his own Israeli team, played professionally there last year — and described his move to Jerusalem as part of a spiritual journey. Stoudemire was baptized in a Hebrew Israelite church in Chicago and speaks frequently about his connections to the black spiritual movement, which holds that African-Americans are genealogical descendants of the ancient Israelites.

Smith did not take the Hebrew Israelite route, though. He appears to have converted to Orthodox Judaism, aided by his agent Daniel Hazan who is based in New York and has family in Israel.

Smith moved to Israel last month and described his newfound religion as generally accepting. “Overall, the religion is pretty straightforward — you’re accepted if you practice what you preach,” Smith said. “As long as you follow the guidelines of who you are, there’s no perfect Jew, and you’re accepted as who you are.’’

To read more about Chris Smith read this and this.

Email Sam Kestenbaum at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @skestenbaum

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.