When Ping-Pong Led to a Kiddush Hashem

WEST HEMPSTEAD -

One never knows where and when the opportunity will arise to to make a kiddush Hashem.

For 11-year-old Estee Ackerman, a sixth-grader at Hebrew Academy of Nassau County in West Hempstead, the opportunity came during the U.S. Nationals Table Tennis Championship, held December 16-22.

That competition is one of the most important for the sport, and Estee, who ranks fourth in the country for her age group, had made it to the finals. She had already won the silver medal, but winning that last match would get her the gold.

“We checked the schedule and saw that the competition was 7 o’clock on Shabbos,” Estee told Hamodia. Her father’s repeated efforts to reschedule the match met with no success, and it became clear that Estee was facing a challenge far beyond any she had anticipated.

“Judaism comes first, always,” said Miss Ackerman, who had practiced six months for the event. True, she was disappointed, but she was able to view the situation with a mature perspective. The decision was clear.

“What if we win, what reward we are getting in Shamayim?” was her take on the matter.

Estee trains four to five times a week, for about two hours at a time. “My dad brought [ping-pong] in for me and my brother, and we practiced in our basement. We got a little bit good … it was a good sport.”

Akiva Ackerman, Estee’s older brother, is a serious player in his own right. He, too was at the U.S. Nationals, although in a division for older players.

Rabbi Yaakov Sadigh, Principal at HANC, speaks highly of the entire Ackerman family, whom he has known for years. In fact, the family didn’t announce to anyone what had happened; the school only found out when the media pubhlished the story of her decision.

“We’re talk about making a kiddush Hashem, and in a defining moment of her life, she actually lived it and modeled it. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. For a girl this young to have an opportunity and make the right choice, it’s an amazing example,” he said.

Her school responsibilities are not eclipsed by her talents. Rabbi Sadigh describes Estee as “very disciplined, a very serious student,” noting also that her parents met with the principal to request the schoolwork she would be responsible for.

Like other young ladies her age, though, Estee likes fun, and she considers ping-pong a good  way to have it. “It’s not a sport that you have to be [a certain age for], or tall. Anybody can do it.”

And, she notes, it does not involve technology. Estee takes a dim view of how intensely some people focus on their electronic gadgetry. She finds it troubling that people seem always to be looking down.

Estee Ackerman looks up.