Avdija shares Hanukkah with teammates, community


WASHINGTON -- While Deni Avdija admitted on Friday it is difficult for him to be so far away from his family and friends back in Israel during Hanukkah, he has found some comfort in celebrating the annual Jewish holiday with his Wizards teammates and at a recent community event in Maryland.

Avdija, 20, has become an ambassador of Israeli culture as the only current NBA player from the country. In celebration of Hanukkah, he recently had his teammates try latkes, a traditional dish that is essentially a potato pancake. The Wizards' culinary staff worked some of them up for the players to try and, according to Avdija, a few of them were big fans.

"Oh hell yeah. Everybody tried them, Some that tried them, four or five, they took four or five. I only stick with one because I’m trying to be on my diet," Avdija said.

Avdija said he believes sharing Israeli and Jewish culture with his teammates is "important" to him. His teammate Daniel Gafford, for instance, said he had never heard of latkes. Gafford grew up in Arkansas before living in Chicago and now Washington during his NBA career.

Gafford wasn't sure of the name when he described the dish to members of the media.

"I think it was a dish that they eat on Hanukkah, I believe. I forgot what it was. It was like a hash brown cake or something like that. He was trying to get me to try it and I was a bit iffy at the time just because some of the stuff they were putting on top of it, I don’t usually eat. I will try it maybe next time, for sure, when I have the appetite for it," he said.


The latkes were accompanied by some traditional toppings including sour cream, apple sauce and salmon lox. Gafford had apparently never seen lox before.

"I don’t know if it was like a piece of fish or what that they put on top of it. He just told me sour cream and salmon. It looked like a tongue, I’m not gonna lie to you. The salmon they put on top of it, it looked like a tongue," he joked.

Gafford, though, said he will "for sure" try it next time and said he hopes to learn more about Hanukkah from Avdija moving forward. Avdija is well-versed, of course, and even went to a celebration in Rockville, MD on Thursday night where he lit a community menorah.

Avdija said the opportunity came about when the local Jewish community in Rockville reached out to his agent. Avdija made an appearance even despite feeling a bit under the weather because it was important to him.

"I was very happy to see how much love the Jewish community gives to me. It was pure enjoyment to come there and share those special moments with them. It was just nice... The love that the Jewish community gave to me, it was surreal," he said.