At six feet tall, Rebecca Yoshor stands out among her peers. She also stands out on the basketball court.
Last week, Yoshor, a 20-year-old Houston native, was named a Capital One NCAA Division III Academic All-American. Yoshor, who plays forward on Stern College’s team, the Lady Maccabees (fondly known as the Lady Macs), was cited on the Second Team. Yoshor is the first Stern student-athlete in Yeshiva University history to receive this award.
“I knew something big had happened when my 17-year-old brother gave me call,” laughed Yoshor, sitting in the student lounge the day after receiving the award. “He never does that. So when he called to wish me congratulations, I knew this was a big deal.”
The honor is awarded to students with an outstanding combination of scholastic and athletic achievements. Yoshor totes a 3.97 grade point average (4.0 scale) and averages 16.6 points and 14.8 rebounds per game on the court. Tom Emberley, Maccabees’ sports information director and Nesta Felix, Maccabees’ team coach, nominated her.
“I knew I had been nominated, but I still couldn’t believe I was chosen,” said Yoshor. “I feel incredibly privileged, and humbled — I know there are so many unique, dedicated players who deserve the award just as much as I do.”
“We call her our ‘secret weapon,’” said Felix. “Jump shot, lay-up, rebound — you name it, she’s on it. Her versatility on the court is amazing. She is much tougher than she looks. The other teams are starting to catch on.”
Yoshor, an English literature major, was initially reluctant to join the team because of the time commitment. In addition to practice five times a week she, like all YU undergraduates, braves a dual curriculum of courses.
“My passion for basketball and my tradition as an observant Jew have never been in conflict,” said Yoshor. “One of the reasons I chose Stern was because I wanted to be in a university where everyone understood why I didn’t play on Saturdays.”
Yoshor’s example is part of a growing trend according to Jeffrey Gurock, author of “Judaism’s Encounter with American Sports” (Indiana University Press) and a professor at YU. Today, he suggested, it is possible for Jewish youngsters to excel both on the court and in the classroom.
“At Yeshiva, an attempt has been made for generations to harmonize living in two cultures,” Gurock said. “Rebecca Yoshor is a great exemplar of the success of that mission. As YU’s first female athlete who has been so honored, she is indicative of an era where Orthodox Jewish women can have it all.”
She is also a YU legacy. While neither of her parents participated in college sports, “my father has always been obsessed with basketball,” Yoshor said. “He’s the type of dad who would come home from work and say ‘C’mon kids! Who’s ready to go play?”
Yoshor’s younger brother, Zach, senior at the Robert M. Beren Academy of Houston, is also a basketball legend, his team grabbing national headlines last year with its push for a pre-Shabbat starting time in order to secure a spot in the 2A private and parochial boys basketball state championship game.
The million-dollar question: her against her brother — who would win? “A couple years ago, it would have been me, hands down,” said Rebecca Yoshor. “But now he’s 6-feet-6 — he can dunk right over my head!”