Lawrence native Harvey Jay Sheff was known as a mensch, a Yiddish word that encapsulates a person’s capacity for being all the things we admire: smart, athletic, considerate and polite.
Sheff, 59, died on Tuesday of the coronavirus. A marketing professional for the past 22 years, he lived in Flushing.
The news of his death spread quickly across the Jewish community, where he was known as a great basketball player who starred at Yeshiva University. “The entire Maccabee family mourns the loss of Harvey Sheff, a true gentleman taken too soon by a horrible and indiscriminate viral pandemic,” the school stated on Twitter. “We will always remember him fondly. May his loved ones be comforted by his memory and what is sure to be an outpouring of love and respect.”
A captain of the Yeshiva men’s basketball team, Sheff finished his hoops career as the college's all-time leading scorer, with 1,500 points. He is now fourth on that list. His post-college basketball career took him to Israel, where he played for Elitzur Ramla.
Sheff graduated from the Hebrew Institute of Long Island in 1977, a member of the school's second to last class before it merged with Hillel to form the Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway in 1978.
At HILI, he was the starting center for the varsity squad for two seasons. Voted the Most Valuable Player of the Metropolitan Jewish High School Basketball League, he played in the inaugural Jewish High School All Star Game alongside Danny Schayes, who went on to play in the NBA and is the son of the late Dolph Schayes, another legendary Jewish basketball player.
Woodmere resident Elliot Steinmetz, the head coach of the Maccabee basketball team, also posted a statement on Twitter. “So sad to learn this news,” Steinmetz said. “Harvey was a wonderful human being who always offered encouraging and supportive words. He will be missed tremendously."
This story will be expanded.