Phil Rubin, Aaron Hartman, Chuck Palefsky
Basketball Team Forms Special Connection
The MJCCA has shaped every part of my life, but it’s the people who have impressed me the most.Phil Rubin
A chain reaction was set off 33 years ago when Philip Rubin turned to Atlanta’s old Jewish Community Center on Peachtree Street for some fun on the basketball court: That decision unfurled a lifetime of enjoyment — and much, much more.
Throughout high school, Philip and his teammates, including Brian Solomon, Jeff Kaiser, Ron Ben Moshe, Sandy Wallack, and Karl Altmann, played their hearts out in the JCC’s varsity and all-star travel leagues. “Playing on that team has led to everything else I’ve done,” Philip says. The boys also participated in BBYO together, and later became roommates and fraternity brothers in college. Along the way, they became great friends.
“This was a very special team,” says their coach Chuck Palefsky. They won many championships, but the team’s most gratifying venture was the addition of a boy with Down syndrome. “I met Aaron Hartman through his father and invited him to join the team as our manager. He loved sports and being around the guys, and I felt the relationship would be mutually beneficial,” recalls Chuck.
And he was right. Aaron was welcomed as a full-fledged member of the team. The players were warm, friendly, and understanding at a time before inclusion was common. Aaron’s compassion and unwavering optimism inspired his teammates and most anyone he met. Aaron led the Shema prayer before practices and games and ensured the players had water. Philip always drove Aaron home, despite it being a 30-minute detour. “Aaron was a special part of the team, and one of my biggest influences,” Philip says. “Chuck truly gave us all a gift by bringing him on.”
Over the last three decades, Chuck, Aaron, and Philip have reunited with the team every few years. They relive the old times but continue to make new memories and support each other. When Aaron needed surgery last year, “a bunch of us surprised him with a visit while he recovered,” Philip shares. Once healed, Aaron joined Philip to watch his son — following in their footsteps — play basketball at the MJCCA. “The MJCCA has shaped every part of my life,” Philip says. “But it’s the people who have impressed me the most.”