Archive for the ‘Jewish Sports’ Category


Maccabiah Update

Posted on: November 27th, 2018 by Ron Kaplan

It’s been a while since I posted any news about the Maccabi sports movement, including the Maccabiah Games. Here’s an attempt to remedy.

You can see that the Maccabi movement in Great Britain is very active. One of my regrets during my recent trip to England was not being able to visit them, as well as missing out on the British Baseball Federation. Oh, well, maybe next time.

Finally, On December 9…


You can’t click on the image to access the page, so just drop them an email or call ’em up.

Here’s a piece from the NJ Jewish News I wrote about Jeff Bukantz and other locals who participated in the 2013 Games. I know there are other stories about JB, including a discussion of his book about his dad, Daniel, himself a fencing legend, but unfortunately they don’t appear to be on the NJJN website.

And finally, finally, some shameless self-promotion: if you are interested in having me speak to your synagogue or group about my book, The Jewish Olympics: The History of the Maccabiah Games (or any of my other books for that matter), drop me a line and let’s chat.

Image result for kaplan, jewish olympics


Oh, the places you’ll go

Posted on: October 5th, 2018 by Ron Kaplan

Had a great time in Old London Town last week. Tried to get some baseball stuff going over there, but it was a fool’s errand. The British Baseball Federation website had an address that was years-old. I found that out the hard way, making a trip out there in hopes of exchanging a copy of 501 Baseball Books for a team cap. Alas, ’twas not to be.

But I did give a the book to the Kennsington Hotel library, so I was able to accomplish at least part of my “mission.”











While at the Kennsington, my wife and I thought we might try to go to a local synagogue. As we used the hotel computer to search for something suitable (we neglected to bring along clothing appropriate to going to shul), we also made the acquaintance of Ken and Lynn Tepper, a lovely couple from Toronto who overheard out conversation. Landsmen! Ken asked if I happened to be the Ron Kaplan who wrote Hank Greenberg in 1938, which he had read. In addition, his son — who participated and coached in several Maccabiah Games for Team Canada — had read my book on the history of that institution. Small world.

Our encounter reminded me of a scene from one of my favorite movies, That Thing You Do, when Guy Patterson, the group’s drummer meets his idol, legendary jazz man Del Paxton who’s playing at an LA club. The cocktail waitress, brings him over to Paxton and some cronies, saying, “This kid has actually heard of you.”

Philly Jewish Sports Hall announces new inductees

Posted on: May 17th, 2018 by Ron Kaplan

The Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame will induct six new members in its next class, according to a story in the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent. They include Lou Scheinfeld, a “longtime executive who now serves as president and CEO of the in-the-works Museum of Sports”; former University of Pennsylvania basketball standout Bruce Lefkowitz; the late boxer-turned-trainer Marty Feldman; former MLB catcher Jesse Levis; former field hockey and lacrosse star and coach Lauren Becker Rubin; and longtime Maccabi youth basketball coach Brian Schiff.

Break them off a piece of that Kit-Kat bar

Posted on: April 11th, 2018 by Ron Kaplan

As in, give them a break.

Image result for pardon the interruptionYesterday’s Pardon the Interruption featured segments on two Jewish sports figures: Josh Rosen, who will be a high pick in the upcoming NFL draft,  and Phillies skipper Gabe Kapler.

The segment on Rosen led off the program as co-hosts Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon opined on whether the former UCLA passer is “too cocky” and the knock on athletes coming from well-to-do families being tough enough to compete on a professional level. (Can’t help thinking that some of this complaining about Rosen’s attitude has at least a little something to do with his Judaism, but that might just be my paranoia).

A few minutes later, the conversation turned to whether Philadelphia fans and media were being too hard on the unorthodox (not being used in the religious meaning here) rookie manager, who likes to use analytics in making his decisions.

You can listen to the program here:

Jewish sports news update (and SSP), January 2, 2018

Posted on: January 2nd, 2018 by Ron Kaplan

Got to remember to write “2018” on the checks. What’s a check, you ask? Man, you’re young.

Image result for 10-year celebration

First, a little shameless self-promotion: The big news is that the Korner is celebrating its 10th anniversary around this time 10, or so I’m told by the folks at LinkedIn. I’m sure it would have been immediately after New Year’s when the site launched under the aegis of the New Jersey Jewish News, so I’m gonna stick with that. To paraphrase from Guys and Dolls — and as far as I know — it’s the oldest established permanent floating Jewish sports site on the Web.

It’s been a mixture of fun and frustration. The fun was doing it for a living when I was with the paper when I had lots of time to work on entries and interviews. Speaking to various groups ion the topic was great and being named Blog of the Year by the New Jersey Press Association was also cool. The frustration is finding the time now that I’m no longer there and keeping an audience. Thanks to all for your support and good wishes over the years. A special tip of the hat to Rabbi Jason Miller for pitching in (see what I did there?) and helping the Korner move along to the next phase.

As far as the real news of the day, there isn’t any. No Jews were in pro sports action action yesterday. But on this date in 1925, according the Day by Day in Jewish Sports History, Kid Kaplan — no relation — beat Danny Kramer in the final bout of an elimination tournament to become featherweight champ.

Image result for kid kaplan danny kramer

Jewish Sports Review review

Posted on: September 26th, 2017 by Ron Kaplan

Image result for jewish sports reviewAs I mentioned in the previous entry, recently received the latest issue of JSR which includes:

  • College Football Previews (D-I, II, and III)
  • NFL Preview
  • Pro Hockey Review (2016-17)
  • College Soccer Reviews (men and women)
  • Sports Shorts
  • A recap of the 2017 Maccabiah Games
  • A list of women’s top performances in track& field

The Jewish Sports Review is a must for any true fan of, well, Jewish sports and is only available in print edition. I keep hoping that will change. Can you imagine an outlet that keeps track of these people and issues on a daily basis? If you look at an issue and see how many athletes that would include, you’d understand what a Samson-ish undertaking that would be. I tried to make Kaplan’s Korner that kind of source when I was working at the NJ Jewish News (did I mention it was named blog of the year by the New Jersey Press Association in 2015?), but since that was only a portion of my job description, it was impractical. These days it’s even more difficult, since I actually have to work for a living now.

For further information about JSR, call 310-838-6626 or send an e-mail to shel@jewishsportsreview.com.

Maccabiah mentions: An occasional look at who’s going to the Games

Posted on: February 23rd, 2017 by Ron Kaplan 2 Comments

An occasional look at who will be participating in the upcoming 20th Maccabiah Games in Israel…

And a shameless self promotion for my book, The Jewish Olympics: The History of the Maccabiah Games.


Jewish Sports Review review

Posted on: January 18th, 2017 by Ron Kaplan

The Jewish sports fan’s best friend arrived recently: The January/February issue of the Jewish Sports Review.

Among the topics covered:

  • http://jewishsportsreview.com/images/jsr.jpgA hockey preview, including the NHL, minor, Canadian and European League, as well as men’s and women’s hockey. It’s interesting to note that the editors continue to list Washington Capitals’ left-winger Andre Burakovsky. Your might remember from previous entries on the Korner that there’s been a bit of “identity crisis” over his inclusion.
  • JSR‘s women’s and men’s college All-America soccer teams for Di and D2 and 3 schools.
  • Jews in professional basketball for 2016-17, including Jews playing international basketball professionally and foreign Jews playing in Israel.
  • Sports shorts, a hodge-podge of snippets of Jewish sports news.
  • A list of Jewish athletes enshrined in American sports Halls of Fame.
  • A Jews in Sports quiz by Neil Keller

I can’t think of a better gift for the hard core sports enthusiasts. So why not get them a subscription? Six bi-monthly issues full of information you won’t find anywhere else for $36. For more, visit Jewishsportsreview.com.


Follow the bouncing ball

Posted on: January 13th, 2017 by Ron Kaplan

From the JTA by Ben Sales:

This 15-year-old Orthodox girl is a pingpong champion

Estee AckermanShe’s beaten a table tennis Hall of Famer. She’s beaten Jewish philanthropists in suits and high heels. She’s beaten tennis champion Rafael Nadal.

And she’s only 15.

Like many Orthodox Jewish teens, Estee Ackerman was raised around a basement pingpong table, a traditional gathering spot for Sabbath-observant kids on long Saturday afternoons.

But unlike her peers, she took her avid interest in the game to professional clubs, coaches and, eventually, tournament championships. Earlier this month, the Long Islander won five medals — including two golds — at the U.S. Open Table Tennis Championships in Las Vegas.

“In table tennis, anyone can beat anyone,” Ackerman told JTA. “In basketball, when you’re taller, you have a much, much bigger advantage. In pingpong, it’s so different. It doesn’t matter about your age. It’s hysterical when me and the other teens are beating 30- and 40-[year-old] big, strong men.”

Ackerman, on her winter break from the Yeshiva University High School for Girls in Queens, was dressed in a long skirt and a loose fitting T-shirt with the letters USA emblazoned on the front. The skirt, standard dress for modern Orthodox girls like her, didn’t stop Ackerman from schooling her dad (and, um, this reporter) with a series of serves that spun so hard, they skid across the basement floor after bouncing off the table.

But her favorite move? The smash, mid-volley.

“At the tournaments people are not surprised because they all expect a hard competition,” she said. “They don’t care what your age is.”

Still, she added: “I wouldn’t say I get bored of people saying, ‘Oh, I can’t believe a 15-year-old player can be great.’”

Ackerman’s interest in pingpong stems from her father, Glenn, who set up the table in the basement of the family’s West Hempstead home seven years ago. The idea was to give Ackerman and her brother, Akiva, some consistent physical activity. But after his watching 8-year-old daughter improve after playing just a couple times a week for an hour or so, Glenn Ackerman took her to a nearby table tennis tclub for lessons from a professional.

“She had a talent, a knack for the sport,” Glenn Ackerman said. “More so, I saw she had the desire to work hard. I always choose hard work over talent. She’s willing to practice endless hours.”

In Vegas, Ackerman took home two gold medals in what’s called “hardbat play” – games where the paddles don’t have any padding. She is ranked in the top 30 among U.S. female players under 18.

“I was overwhelmed when I won the event,” she said of one of her gold medals. “This lady I played — it’s like my dad playing John McEnroe.”

Earlier this year, Ackerman was one of the final 16 qualifiers for the three-person U.S. women’s Olympic table tennis team that competed in Rio de Janeiro. She didn’t make the squad, but hopes to compete at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

Ackerman’s table tennis training contends with a school day that ends past 5 p.m., as well as obligations to her school’s girls’ junior varsity basketball team — incidentally, she is the leading scorer. While she trains every evening, she also has an abridged practice schedule. On Shabbat and Jewish holidays, Ackerman will play the game with friends, but only for fun in her synagogue clothes, not the T-shirt and shorts she wears while competing. Nor does she run any practice drills or work with coaches. This way, she’s not doing anything that could be construed as work.

“If my friends come over, I’ll go down and have some fun with them,” she said. “They get a good laugh out of it. I wonder how much better of a player I would be if I played on the holidays and Shabbat.”

Ackerman and her dad hope to bring the sport out of informal Shabbat play into Jewish day schools. Its versatility – unfettered by weather or the players’ physical size – could lend itself to league play, something several Jewish schools have organized for other sports.

But unlike in China, where table tennis is among the most popular sports, Glenn Ackerman believes it is shunned as a serious pursuit in the U.S.

“The stigma is, it’s a basement sport, it’s a garage sport, it’s a rainy day sport, it’s a sport for nerds,” he said. “We are trying to bring the sport out of the basement and into the mainstream.”

Ackerman’s ban on playing on the Sabbath extends to tournaments — in 2012, she had reached the round of 16 at an event, only to forfeit a match when it began too late on a Friday evening. She and her father now try to mitigate potential conflicts by asking tournament organizers to refrain from scheduling at least one key event on Friday night or Saturday.

“I said to myself, this situation was going to happen to me one day,” Ackerman recalled. “I had to choose my religion or the love of the sport. On Shabbat, to be in my uniform, to go down to be competing in a national tournament, this is not in the spirit of Shabbos. This is not what Hashem would want me to do.”

Following her decision to sit out the match, Ackerman was honored by several Jewish groups, including the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement, and Meor, an Orthodox Jewish campus group. She has played table tennis at the benefit dinners of a few Jewish organizations, facing off against guests clad in black tie.

In May, she defeated Patty Wasserman, a Hall of Famer who won three U.S. Open women’s singles titles — including at 13, the youngest player ever to accomplish the feat. (She was Patty Martinez until marrying fellow Hall of Famer Si Wasserman in May.) Wasserman, 64, also played on three U.S. Olympic teams.

But one of Ackerman’s most exciting matches was against Nadal when she was 11. They were brought together during a promotional event ahead of the 2013 U.S. Open Tennis Championships. Nadal won that tournament, besting Novak Djokovic. But he couldn’t beat Ackerman.

“He was a little surprised at me,” she said. “He didn’t expect a little American girl to be good at pingpong. Him being the best tennis player in the world, I thought he knew how to play.”

Ackerman paused before adding: “But I won most of the points.”

A look at the latest Jewish Sports Review

Posted on: January 12th, 2016 by Ron Kaplan

The January/February issue just arrived. This one features

  • pro and college hockey preview (including the minor, European, and Canadian leagues) for men and women
  • 2015 men’s and women’s college All-America soccer teams
  • a lengthy “sports shorts” review
  • Part 4 of a  “No, They’re Not!” item, which, of course, includes Julian Edelman “(NOT Jewish as per family and Patriots. He has ‘Jewish roots’.)”
  • Jews in professional basketball. Just Omri Casspi in the NBA, put several morr in various Israeli and international leagues
  • Israeli sports
  • a “Jews in Sports — Letter ‘S'” quiz




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