Players from one of the college basketball most prominent teams took part in a baptism ceremony in the Jordan River last week during an off day as part of the team’s summer international tour.
The Auburn men’s basketball team which is expected to be ranked for the 2022-23 season has visited multiple historical sites in Israel in recent days, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which tradition says was the site of Christ’s empty tomb.
The team’s official social media account posted pictures of the baptisms.
Auburn coach Bruce Pearl, who is Jewish, has called the tour a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity.
“My players are going to see their Judeo-Christian roots, and for those who want to get baptized in the river Jordan, they will,” he told The Jerusalem Post. “They’ll walk in the garden where Jesus walked and pray at the Western Wall. And they’ll experience firsthand God’s presence in the Holy Land. Just come and see it, you’ll be changed forever.”
Auburn’s official Twitter account also showed the team touring the Dead Sea, the Western Wall, Bethlehem and the Yad Vashem World Holocaust Museum.
The Tigers won the SEC regular season championship last season and were ranked No. 1 for much of the season before being upset in the NCAA tournament round of 32.
Pearl often discusses his Jewish heritage. During a news conference in March, he mentioned the festival of Purim and the book of Esther.
“I’m very proud of my Jewish identity, and not afraid to put that pride on full display even though there are many times where – because of antisemitism – it wouldn’t benefit me personally or professionally,” Pearl said. “I’m active politically, speaking out publicly on antisemitism, racism and other issues of intolerance. I take the words ‘never again’ very seriously.”