Don’t F*$# With The Rabbi

nvts12011150357.rp350x350He’s not ordained yet, but Yuri Foreman showed the world what Torah study plus a lot of speed bag training can do:

The Belarus-born, Israeli-bred, Brooklyn-based boxer punched his way to victory over Daniel Santos last Saturday after Shabbos, taking Santos’ title as the Welterweight Champion of the world. Which means that along with Orthodox junior welterweight champ Dmitiry Salita, it’s only a matter of time before synagogues start setting up Las Vegas-style boxing rings on the bima after Havdalah, which would be AWESOME.

For another compelling example of an a**-kicking Jew, look no future than Foreman’s wife, Leyla Leidecker: The future rebbetzin is an amateur boxer herself who directed the documentary “Golden Gloves” – check out the trailer here. She also happens to be GORGEOUS.

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All I have to say is that I hope they have lots of fast-fisted, observant children who form a Maccabean-like army and scare the pants off Iran.

Sports Mishegoss

Jews are all over the sports pages this week:

First, the hoop dreams of the Herzl/Rocky Mountain Hebrew Academy’s boys’ basketball team in Denver may be dashed if the Colorado High School Activities Association board doesn’t get it’s head on straight. The athletic board has refused to reschedule the March 8 championship game, which falls on Shabbat, saying “If Herzl/RMHA makes it to the regional championship and refuses to play a Saturday game, another school would be chosen to take its place.”

The issue has caught the attention of some Colorado senators, who have pointed out that no games are scheduled on Sunday, the Christian Sabbath, which violates the rights’ of the Jewish players. Fortunately, our cause has the sympathetic pen of the local Rocky Mountain News; the RMN has taken the athletics board to task in several columns for their inflexible, discriminatory ruling. More to come on this one, I’m sure.

pearlSpeaking of basketball, University of Tennesee head coach Bruce Pearl has kicked all manner of tushy and led his team to the top spot in the country. A vocal and proud Jew, Pearl will be inducted into the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame on June 8.

And lastly, even if you think the parents of your kids’ teammates are shmendricks for kvetching about unequal field time and screaming at the ref, no one can top this Australian soccer dad’s schmuckitude.

Calling All Pious Dodgers Fans

sandysyarmulekAs we go into Kol Nidre, you may be scrambling for an extra credit towards this Year’s Book of Life. Perhaps a worn polyester yarmulke that once sat on the duff of baseball great Sandy Koufax, currently up for auction on eBay?

However, even if you beat out the bidders (it’s at $55 as of noon, EST), it will not excuse you from watching the Georgia game before Break the Fast (I’m talking to you, El Yenta Man.)

Easy fast, y’all!

Kippot Revolution

klippedkepahThis story from Boca Raton has it all — diplomacy, ingenunity, and a happy ending: When the powerful governing body of Florida’s high school athletics informed Weinbaum Yeshiva basketball coach Jon Kaweblum that the bobby pins Jewish athletes use to keep their yarmulkes pinned to their heads during games would be suddenly be considered a safety hazard (in spite of the absence of even one hair accessory-related injury in the many decades of Yeshiva sports,) he could have called “foul!” The Yeshiva certainly had a case for religious discrimination, but instead of raising a big stink and threatening to secede from the organization, 26 year-old Kaweblum put his keppe to work to find a solution that wouldn’t punish the players.

The result: A pin-free kippah that won’t leave the court strewn with clips. Klipped Kippahs made their debut on the heads of Weinbaum’s team, and stay put using small combs attached to the underside. (There’s a discount for bulk orders, and you can even send in your own kippah for modification!) The simple design was approved wholeheartedly and immediately by the Florida High School Athletic Association, a resolution resonant of Talmudic inspiration.

“This is more than clips on a yarmulke,” said the Yeshiva’s headmaster Rabbi Perry Tirschwell. “I told the children, ‘Don’t let this lesson be lost on you. There will be obstacles, but you can keep true to your faith and your principles and participate in the American experience.’”

Jewsin’ for A Bruisin’?

Salita Those of you following Dmitriy Salita‘s rising reputation as a nice Jewish boy with lethal fists already know he beat the pants off his opponent Grover Wiley last week at the Hammerstein Ballroom.

Actually, Grover got to keep his pants, but his dignity was smeared all over the ring after our boy Dmitriy busted out with a barrage of body punches in the seventh round, impelling the judges to levy a unanimous decision in his favor. Dmitriy would have liked to gone for the big K.O., but Grover got a few minutes to recover after his mouthpiece fell out, preventing total consciouness annihilation.

“The knockout was what I wanted, but I have to be satisfied that I got the win and remain in contention for a title shot.”

Here he is aprés-fight (kinda like aprés ski, only the hot tub smells like old guys and Ben-Gay) with the two people to whom he credits his success: his trainer Jimmy O’Phrarret (who apparently just looooves his beanie cap) and his rabbi. Dunno who the guy on the left is — the official water shprizter?

See more action shots here!

The Fists From Odessa To Fight Again

dmitiryandbushI’m whiner, not a fighter. But something about Jewish pugilist Dmitriy Salita has me shadowboxing the drapes and attempting one-handed push-ups, he’s so inspiring.

The 24 year-old Ukrainian-born New Yorker is the only Orthodox Jew in the glitzy, bloody world of professional boxing and lays tefillin every day before heading to the gym. He has a strong relationship with a Lubavitch rabbi, doesn’t fight on Fridays and of course, his nutritional counselor makes sure his diet is kosher and designed for optimal performance.

Our boy Dmitriy is fast on his way to becoming the next high-profile Jewish media icon; in fact, Matisyahu opened for him at the NABA championships last August. He attended the Chanukah festivities at the White House this past season, where he stands to the right of President Bush in this photo. No, the naturalized citizen did not take the opportunity to suckerpunch G.W. for his immigration policies.

Jimmy O’Pharret, his mentor the Starret City Boxing Club and the gentleman on the left who looks like he might goose Laura just for kicks, has seen every kind of person hit the ring in his place, but says he’s never seen one like Dmitriy: “Kid looks Russian, prays Jewish and fights black.”

This video feature showcases this articulate and faithful young man who intends to smack down Grover Wiley at the Hammerstein Ballroom in Manhattan on March 22. Look for the lightning fists and the Star of David on the shorts.

Tzedakeh, Touchdowns And You

ffWhen I hear “Super Sunday,” I expect a phone call from my local Jewish Federation looking for pledges, but that’s because I’m not much of a football fan. Most people in this sports-obsessed country know it’s all about the pigskin this Sunday, when the Chicago Bears battle the Indianapolis Colts in the 41st Super Bowl in South Florida. (Funny, I do believe Da Bears won the very last Super Bowl I watched back in 1986, the year all the players did that painful MTV rap video known as the “Superbowl Shuffle.”)

Even if you don’t get a call from the J-Feds, there’s still ways to make this national “holiday” Jewish. The Union for Reform Judaism urges football fans this year to think of others while snarfing down the traditional “holiday” foods of nachos, Cheetos and chili dogs:

In their program guide to secular holidays, the Religious Action Center suggests “asking fans to plan a trip to the local food pantry or help organize a community wide to project to help end hunger” before settling down on the couch for the afternoon. A mighty resource of conscience and action, “the program guide aims to raise awareness and help individuals and congregations fight injustice even while enjoying the game.”

It’s probably a little late to host a Super Bowl party for the homeless at the synagogue, but an hour collecting cans of food throughout the neighborhood while everyone’s dousing themselves in the pre-game beer stupor could make for a windfall for the local food bank.

If you’re already down in that sunny South Florida neck o’ da woods, you should definitely hit the hottest Super Bowl party in the upper 48, hosted by Jmerica at XTreme Indoor Karting in Fort Lauderdale. Even if you’re not a football fan (or Jewish, for that matter,) there’ll be games, prizes, food and plenty of big-screens to watch the action.

As for me, I’ll be waiting by the phone, waiting to give a few shekels to my peeps. Just call me in at half-time when my man Prince hits the field.

Israeli Pugilist Pounds in Monaco

romangreenbergStudly Israeli heavyweight Roman Greenberg crushed his Russian opponent last week in Monte Carlo, but he’d better hit the gym if he wants to kick ass in America next week.

According to Ynetnews
, the 24-year-old was sporting some tummy flab in the ring, though a boxing aficionado claims Greenberg “has the fastest hands for a heavyweight since Muhammad Ali.” Yeah, but even the strongest butterfly can’t float through lard, so let’s hope our Israeli hero skips the American Thanksgiving.

If you’re in the Miami-ish area or can figure out the whole PayPerView thing, the undefeated Roman is scheduled to fight at the Hard Rock Hotel in Hollywood, Florida on Dec. 1.

When Football Is the State Religion

dawgsyarmulkeYou know you live in Georgia when the hot topic at Kol Nidre services is not “So many sins, only one day to atone!” but “How ’bout them Dawgs?

Even high school football is huge at shul; El Yenta Man couldn’t keep himself out of the next pew when he found out it held the quarterback of his alma mater team. “A Jewish quarterback, how ‘ bout that?” he kept saying with with a grin, well after the first tones of the choir. Sure, it’s a pretty big deal at a school as WASPy as Savannah Country Day and probably had something to do with it being the first year the private school closed on Yom Kippur. But still, I had to give him the Yenta version of the “church pinch” (a swift flick to the back of the head) when the rabbi gave us the stinkeye. “Eh, he’s a Windsor Forest fan, anway,” whispered El Yenta Man, rubbing his keppe.

For whatever reason, Jews can’t get enough of football in the South. Check out these meshuggenehs — a whole team of high school Jews in Texas who can’t wait to suit up. (Hat tip to Jewlicious.) Oy, boys, watch the orthodontia.

Georgia Bulldogs yarmulke available at LidsforYids.com.

Green Muses On His J-Hype

shawn greenPoor Shawn Green. He’s not so religious, but as the most prominent of a handful (okay, maybe two handfuls) of Jewish pro baseball players, he’s unwittingly become a Jewish icon. Ever since he delicately handled a Yom Kippur/playoff game conflict back in 2004 by playing on Kol Nidre and sitting out the next day, Green’s Jewishness is central to his public identity whether he likes it or not. From Sunday’s sports page :

Truthfully, Green doesn’t always feel very Jewish. But then, Green will find himself again front and center in the outfield of some big-league stadium, and suddenly he is supposed to be the next Sandy Koufax, the next Hank Greenberg. One of maybe a dozen Jewish players in the league, he is supposed to represent everything to everybody.

Full story.

Meaning the guy probably can’t eat a piece of shrimp without worrying that some tabloid-y Jewish blogger is watching (no worries, Shawn, I’d never tell.)

Apparently whomever schedules the games has become a little more sensitive this year: there’s no High Holidays conflict for Green, who’s enjoying his first season with the Mets and the rest of New York Jewry.