Los Angeles Lakers player Jordan Robert Farmar was born in 1986 to minor league baseball player Damon Farmar and his Jewish wife Mindy. The couple divorced while Farmar was still a baby and Mindy remarried, to Yehuda Kolani, an Israeli from Tel Aviv. The son and step-father told Ynet their thoughts on Israel, Judaism and, of course, the game.
In a 2005 interview with Ynet, Farmar played down discussion about his ethnic origin, adding "it is hard to say I developed a special connection" to Israel. In 2007, his views appear unchanged, despite some activities with Israeli programs.
Ironically, there was a chance of Farmar being raised in Israel, after the homesick Kolani and his wife considered moving there. In the end, however, the couple decided against it, for fear that Farmar's biological father would object to him moving out of the country.
"It's possible that if we hadn't worried about legal problems, we would have raised Jordan in Israel, but it's unclear if had that happened, there would have been the necessary conditions to have allowed him to develop in the way that he has.
"He also wouldn't have gotten the same type of exposure. In terms of his career, it's good that we stayed in the United States," said Kolani.
Israel basketball connection
This is not to say that Farmar has never been to Israel. He came for two long visits, at age seven and 11, and even got involved with local basketball. Kolani's cousin is none other than Limor Mizrahi, well-known among Israeli women players.
"He was a basketball fanatic even back then," Mizrahi recalled, "That's why we clicked. He would come with me to practice."
When Farmar was 11, he traveled with his father all around Israel. "He was very excited by Jerusalem. He put a note in the Western Wall and everything. We went all around, to Eilat, the Dead Sea, but it's still hard to say that he has remained attached to Israel," his step-father confirmed.
Farmar in action (Photo: Reuters)
"He's hasn't been back since then, although I believe he still has a connection.That's why I'm happy with his agent, who is Jewish and very active in the community."
It was at the encouragement of his agent, Arn Tellem, that Farmar participated in a Seeds for Peace sports camp. He met many Israeli, Palestinian and other Arab children there. He also hosted a number of disabled Israeli children at a Lakers' game.
When asked about these events, Farmar responded, "I did Seeds of Peace and brought some kids to a game because I think it's important to help people, and just show you care. My views on lsrael haven't changed though."
In 2005, Farmar had said: "I am a Jew, and even though I don't define myself as a believing Jew, I am certainly part of this people and it is also a part of me. There is no sense in denying this. But I'm not the one who plays up the fact that I am a Jewish basketball player. I want to be a player admired by everyone, and not just one community or another. Look, I am also half black."
When asked whether his son, who has been referred to as a 'Jewish Jordan' by some, was aware of the expectations of him as a representative of the American Jewish community, Kolani told Ynet: "We raised Jordan in a Jewish household. His background is known to everyone and (Lakers coach) Phil Jackson asked him if he had a problem training on Yom Kippur.
"I know he's aware of expectations for him to be a role model, but I'm not sure he's ready to carry that flag, yet. He's only 20... I expect that with time he'll grow up and be ripe enough to fulfill such expectations, which definitely exist in the Jewish public. For now, he has appeared at Jewish events... I think his connection with Arn Tellem is also appropriate."
Farmar himself conceded that "being a pro athlete, we're role models whether we like it or not. It's important for us to represent the people who identify themselves with us, because we bring a sense of hope to so many people."
When asked about a potential future playing in Europe or Israel, the NBA player said, "I can't rule it out because you never know what can happen in the future, but I want to play at home in the States for as long as I can, and especially at home in Los Angeles."