Archive for the ‘Jews and boxing’ Category


Philly Jewish Sports Hall announces new inductees

Posted on: May 17th, 2018 by Ron Kaplan No Comments

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.

Mish-Mashing (Trying to catch up)

Posted on: May 15th, 2017 by Ron Kaplan

Things have been a bit hectic of late, what with looking for a new job and dealing with the release of the new book. So here’s a quick look back and what we (meaning I) have missed over the last several days.

Yuri Foreman on the comeback trail

Posted on: June 8th, 2016 by Ron Kaplan

From the Algemeiner:

http://49yzp92imhtx8radn224z7y1-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Yuri-Foreman-217x300.jpgFormer world champion boxer and ordained rabbi Yuri Foreman continued his comeback on Friday afternoon with a second round knockout of journeyman Jason Davis at the Resorts World Casino in Queens, NY.

Foreman, 35, out-boxed Davis in the opening round, and sent his opponent to the canvas three times in round two before the referee ended the bout at 1:55, according to BoxingScene.com.

Ahead of the match, Foreman had promised fans in a Facebook post that the eight-round match against Davis would be over before the onset of Shabbat, and he kept true to his word.

It was on June 5 in 2010 that Foreman lost to Miguel Cotto in Yankee Stadium. Foreman had to contend with leg injuries that curtailed his mobility.

Lest we forget: Muhammad Ali

Posted on: June 7th, 2016 by Ron Kaplan

There has been a ton of stuff written about the late champ, mostly about his status as a revolutionary athlete and cultural influence.

Here are a few items you might have missed:

Savvy sports photo fans know the name Neil Leifer. He’s taken some of the most iconic pictures across the spectrum, including the one below


Leifer spoke about what it was like to cover Ali on the latest Sports Illustrated podcast which you can hear here.

Ali was one of the topics on Slate’s Hang Up and Listen. HUAL is one podcast where it’s beneficial to visit the home page because of the great show notes and links they always provide.

Robert Lypsite provided the front page obituary for The New York Times over the weekend. In fact, it ran on both Saturday and Sunday, which I have never seen before. Richard Sandomir wrote this piece about the “Odd Couple” relationship between Ali and Jewish sportscasting legend Howard Cosell. “One man, Ali, understood racism; the other, Cosell, experienced anti-Semitism. And neither could stop talking,” Sandomir writes. (Their relationship was also the topic of Sound and Fury, by Dave Kindred.)


Leonard Schecter, who edited Jim Bouton’s watershed Ball Four, wrote “The Passion of Muhammad Ali” for Esquire in 1968. The profile was almost as famous for Carl Fischer’s photo as it was for the narrative. (Here’s a gallery of famous Ali snaps.)

Can you pick out the mistakes? (grown-up edition)

Posted on: January 17th, 2014 by Ron Kaplan

Remember those puzzles in which similar images were shown side by side and you had to pick out the subtle differences?

That’s kind of the feeling I got when I read this piece by David Fontana on the Huffington Post today.

Although I appreciate the sentiment and good will he had in publishing The Return of the Jewish Athlete,” I was immediately exasperated by the use, once again, of the tired cliche about Jewish sports heroes constituting the world’s thinnest book (or whatever derivation thereof). But in reading the article, I came across several examples of questionable research and reporting. See how many you can find and drop me an email.

Salita will make aliya when finished fighting

Posted on: August 13th, 2013 by Ron Kaplan

From JTA:

Orthodox Jewish boxer Dmitriy Salita said he will move to Israel at the end of his professional career.

On a visit to Argentina as part of fundraising activities for the network of Chabad-Lubavitch Jewish schools Oholey Jinuj, the Ukraine-born pugilist spoke with JTA about his future, which included his plans to immigrate to Israel.

“I will make aliya with my family,” Salita told JTA on Aug. 7 during a gala dinner in Buenos Aires after checking with his wife, Alona, who is an Israeli citizen, to make sure he can go public with the news.

Salita has developed the DS fitness program, which includes training and self-defense techniques, as well as inspirational messages. In the future he said wants to teach and develop this program in Israel and perhaps collaborate with the Jerusalem Boxing Club and Maccabi Tel Aviv training young Israeli boxers. He has started to teach with his personal method at the Gym Factory in Brooklyn.

Salita, who sports a Star of David on his trunks during bouts, told JTA that his loss to Amr Khan for the world title in 2009 was a very sad moment. He traveled to Israel for first time two days after the fight.

“I was at Yad Vashem,” he said. “It was a very traumatic experience, but at the end of the museum you can see the wonderful sight of Israel. The message is that our people can recover that after the darkest moment… Israel is our light. I also feel that, I realize that after this hard defeat I need to do my best to come back and also that Israel is at the end of my journey.”.

The 2001 Golden Gloves Champion spoke at Wednesday’s dinner about his Judaism, his values, and his experiences as a boxer and an Orthodox Jew.

Salita, whose nickname is the “Star of David,” has fought more than 100 fights in his boxing career, with an amateur record of 59-5 and a professional record of 35-1-1. He lives with his wife Alona Aharonov and his two-year-old daughter Milaliah in New York, and trains in Detroit.

People of the book: Jewish Jocks wins award

Posted on: February 8th, 2013 by Ron Kaplan

Franklin Foer, left, and Marc Tracy.

Congratulations to Franklin Foer, Marc Tracy, and all the contributors to Jewish Jocks: An Unorthodox Hall of Fame, which is among the award-winners as selected by the Jewish Book Council.

The book, a collection of appreciations for Jewish athletes by an eclectic group of writers, won as best anthology.

The JBC will hold an award ceremony on Thursday, March 14 at 8 p.m. at the Center for Jewish History, 15 W. 16th Street, in Manhattan. The event is open to the public.

For more information, visit JewishBookCouncil.org.

Looking for a fight

Posted on: January 24th, 2013 by Ron Kaplan

It’s been pretty quiet on the Jewish boxing front lately, so it took me by surprise to learn that Yuri Foreman, who’s just months away from obtaining his smiha, won a unanimous decision last night in Manhattan over  Brandon Baue of Missouri.

The 32-year-old from Israel, a former World Boxing Association champion, improved his record to 29-2.

He had been out of action for 22-months, following a June 2011 loss in which he aggravated a knee injury. Then he stayed home, according to this ESPN story, to do “daddy duty, and let his motivational batteries recharge.”

Another story from The Algemeiner.
Meanwhile, Dmitriy Salita (35-1-1, 18 KOs) will next enter the ring on Feb. 9 against Hector Camacho Jr. at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn as part of a special Showtime televised event.


It's Times for Jewish Jocks

Posted on: November 30th, 2012 by Ron Kaplan

A review in The New York Times practically guarantees increased sales, so kudos to co-editors Tracy and Foer  and all the contributors to this fine collection.

Book Review: Jewish Jocks

Posted on: November 26th, 2012 by Ron Kaplan

A Unorthodox Hall of Fame, Edited by Franklin Foer and Mark Tracy
Twelve Books, 304 pages, $26.99.

By Dave Hollander

“It’s gotten thicker” said a colleague when I flashed him my review copy of Jewish Jocks: An Unorthodox Hall of Fame. He was, of course, referencing the old joke, told in some variation or another:  Q “What’s the thinnest book ever written? “ A “Jewish sports heroes. “ There lies some historic truth in the jest.  In 1948 (hard to believe the annum was coincidental) when Harold Ribalow convinced Bloch Publishing to print  The Jew in American Sports, Hebraic boxing legend Barney Ross (included in Jewish Jocks) wrote in the book’s preface  that he “wonder[ed] that any publisher should consider [the book] sufficiently salable to risk the publications costs.” Ribalow’s compendium provided glorious sketches of twenty-eight athletes. Sixty-four years,  later Jewish Jocks offers fifty different writers on fifty  different sports figures.  I guess it has gotten thicker.

Or is pro-sports finally post-Semitic? When I grew up, it used to be that anytime anyone in our family noticed a potentially Jewish sounding name in a sports page – Cohen, Shapiro, Grossman or a last name suffixed  with a -stein, -berg, -taub, etc.  —  we’d postulate with cautious optimism:  “Is he Jewish?” But since then, haven’t enough sons and daughters of Abraham come along that it’s not a really a big deal any more if someone in the NFL, NBA or MLB is Jewish?   To wit, I offer a tipping point.  During an August 16, 2006 Red Sox telecast  ( I urge you to YouTube this now) , actor/comedian  Denis Leary joined the broadcast booth for some banter at which time he was informed that Kevin Youkilis, the Sox first baseman, was Jewish.  On cue, Youkilis made a defensive gem; a diving stop of a hard ground ball in the hole on the second base side, then neatly tossing  to Curt Schilling covering first base to complete the out.  Leary erupted in a hilarious tirade against Mel Gibson, whose inebriated Jew-hate  rant toward a California police officer only two weeks earlier conclusively  bestowed the rank of anti-Semite upon the Aussie actor.  “Where’s Mel Gibson now, huh?” crowed Leary, channeling a little Sam Kinison.  “He’s in rehab, and Youkilis is at first base! Alright, Mel?  You happy Braveheart? You see that grab, Mel?”  It goes on for a good several minutes .  The sight of the hulking , hyper-competent, World Series champion Youkilis set against the sounds of the honest, edgy, Irish Leary’s riff said clearly to me:  it’s over.  Jews in sports are no longer a surprise

So when I heard about Jewish Jocks, I hoped for a book that took us beyond retributive footnotes like the Leary-Youkilis-Gibson incident, or the mournful athletic-less linkage to the Munich Games, or the lame taunting canard that Jews don’t play sports.  For this, Jewish Jocks gets my brucha.  Editors Franklin Foer and Mark Tracy do an admirable job, earning automatic inclusion in any Judaic collection and a respectable place in any sports bibliography.

At first, the Introduction by the editors (Foer, the once former now current editor of The New Republic and Tracy, staff writer for The New Republic, formerly at Tablet) put me off.  “Our pantheon includes people who in some cases, couldn’t even run the bases.”  In fact, almost one third of the fifty entries are not “jocks” but sports “figures” who did not distinguish on any fields of play.  “So,” Foer and Tracy further disclaim  “we went ahead and made Howard Cosell a Jewish Jock.  If you want to blast that out of the park, be warned: it’s our curveball, the only kind we know how to throw — in part because , when we were kids, we never did learn the traditional kind.”  They sound like a stereotype of the stereotype. It recalls to mind an August 2005 piece in Slate by Neal Pollack (a Jew) “The Cult of the General Manager” where Pollack lamented that we are living in a time where “sports fans” idolize non-athletes instead of athletes.  “We’re in a sports age in which Executive of the Year is an award on par with the MVP. “ he declared. “Heroes don’t analyze spreadsheets. Really, who would you rather be, Tom Brady or the guy who signed Tom Brady to a long-term deal? This may be the age of the general manager. But the quarterback still has more fun. “  I’m in Pollock’s camp, but alas this is the world we live in and if you don’t let the non-jocks get in the way, you’ll enjoy Jewish Jocks a lot more.

It’s not easy to put together a book like this. When one creates any “hall of fame” — particularly sports related —  debate follows. As you read Jewish Jocks, you may quibble with omissions. Is it too early for Ryan Braun? Why include Bud Selig and not David Stern?  Care to make an argument for Sue Bird?  I would.  And speaking of arguments, Rod Carew due to the technical absence of a formal religious conversion has been kept out of every Jewish sports hall of fame, despite the fact that he has been living more Jewishly than most Jews in this book and elsewhere.  Such sports talk fodder aside, there can be no arguing that Jewish Jocks delivers hall of fame writers and writing. It’s a staggering collection of awards winners; Pulitzers, Mann Bookers, bestsellers, Editors in Chief.   Behold household literati like Buzz Bissinger, David Brooks, Stephen Dubner, Jonathan Safran Foer, Jane Leavy, Deborah Lisptadt, George Packer, David Remnick, and Lawrence Summers, to name-drop a few; each members of the tribe reflecting on their own.  Some wax with love, some with skepticism, some with awe, some with derision, and all with ample research . Really, for sheer literary and journalistic power in 2013, it doesn’t get much better.

The very first essay by Simon Schama on the 16th century British pugilists Daniel Mendoza reads lyrically  like an elegiac ballad.  Timothy Snyder educates us on Max Nordau’s “muscular Judaism” of the late 1800’s.  Rebecca Newberger Goldstein meditates humorously on “heightism” while recalling the diminutive basketball star from the Lower East Side, Barney Sedran. We stunningly learn in “Fencing for Hitler,”  Joshua Cohen’s section on Helen Mayer, the “strange and inexplicable fact that more Jewish Fencers were murdered in Nazi camps, then were accomplished athletes of any other sport.”  Judith Shulevitz writes insightfully but none too kindly of Olympic swimming icon Mark Spitz.  I was a little weirded out by Sam Lipstyte’s onanistic focus in the chapter he handed in on his father, sports writer Robert.  And I laughed out loud reading  Jeffrey Goldberg’s line regarding wrestler Bill Goldberg’s crossover appeal:  “In addition to believing the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Hezbollah gunmen believe that professional wrestling isn’t staged.”  If I had to choose a personal favorite, it’s  Kevin Arnovitz’s short, sharp, vivid tale of Nancy Lieberman , the pioneering women’s basketball player, who took the A train from Far Rockaway to Rucker Park on a regular basis, accompanied by boys you don’t meet in Hebrew School — boys who became lifelong friends — who were welcomed, kind of, by Nancy’s mother for some kitchen table hospitality knowing that these guys assured her daughter’s safe passage.  I wonder if that house in the Rockaways still stands, after Sandy.

What’s compelling  about a book like this is that ultimately it’s a book about us.   Sports marketers call it “basking in reflected glory.” (see:  Cialdini, Robert, et. al., “Basking in Reflected Glory: Three (Football) Field Studies”, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1976. )  By publicly identifying with the accomplishments of others, particularly others like us in some way, we feel better about ourselves and hope everyone else does too.   Now that that book of Jewish sports heroes has indeed gotten thicker, maybe in sports we should take more credit more often.   Like Linsanity did for Asian-Americans, we could use a little more Jew-sanity.  Let’s do it not only when gymnast Aly Raisman chooses Hava Nagila for her floor exercise in proud defiance at the 2012 Summer Olympics. That was beautiful.  But see it everywhere in sports.  See it like Michael Phelps does.  He knows that there’s no way he gets his record eight gold medals in the 2008 games, passing  Mark Spitz, if not for the super-mensch effort in the anchor leg of 4x100m freestyle relay from  Jason Lezak, a Jew.

Dave Hollander is a clinical assistant professor at New York University’s SCPS Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism, and Sports Management.  He is the author of three books and currently working on his fourth.


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