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(JTA) — Happy Friday, Jewish sports fans!
Before we get into the news, one quick pitch: JTA is hosting an end-of-year online benefit featuring die-hard Philly sports fan (and CNN anchor) Jake Tapper, who will be in conversation with JTA editor-in-chief Philissa Cramer. While they might not have time to discuss the Phillies bullpen, it’s sure to be an exciting evening. If you’d like to support JTA and the work we do, please check out the benefit page here for information and to make a donation. Thank you!
The Israeli angle to ‘The Iron Claw’
If you’re looking for a movie to see after having your Chinese food on Christmas, you may want to check out “The Iron Claw,” the wrestling movie that hits theaters next Friday.
The film — which has gotten strong reviews so far — features a star-studded cast including Zac Efron, Jeremy Allen White (star of “The Bear”) and even the real Jewish wrestler Maxwell Jacob Friedman. The movie tells the tragic story of the Von Erich family, the first family of professional wrestling in Texas.
The Von Erichs weren’t just legends in the Lone Star state. At one time they were a super heavyweight-sized deal in the Jewish state as well.
“Anyone who grew up in Israel in the 1980s would be a major fan of the Von Erich brothers — David, Kevin, Kerry and Mike,” said one Jewish federation CEO. “They were icons in Israel as their faces were seen weekly on televisions across the Middle East on Saturday nights.”
TAKING A STAND. When Jewish teenager David Teeger, the captain of South Africa’s under-19 cricket team, won a “rising star” award in October, he dedicated the honor to Israel and its soldiers. After a local Palestinian group filed a complaint, Teeger was briefly suspended from the sport and investigated for hate speech. The judge cleared him of any wrongdoing.
MAGIC CLEATS. Last week, we showed you the Israel-themed cleats Minnesota Vikings kicker Greg Joseph would wear on Sunday as part of the NFL’s “My Cleats, My Cause” program. We didn’t anticipate what would come next: the Vikings won 3-0 on a 36-yard field goal from Joseph.
FAR FROM HOME. The Forward profiles Israeli Ofri Naveh, a freshman forward who was recruited to play basketball at the University of West Virginia. Naveh shares his experience playing in the states while his country is at war.
BALLIN. As the Oakland Athletics prepare to move to Las Vegas, the city has a new independent baseball team to root for: the Oakland Ballers. Meet their new manager: Micah Franklin, a Jewish former big leaguer who also played professionally in Japan and Korea.
CHANGE OF PLANS. Starting in 2024, sportswear giant Puma will no longer sponsor Israel’s national soccer team. The decision was made in 2022 and is unrelated to the ongoing war.
AL IS OUT. Speaking of lineup changes, broadcasting legend Al Michaels is not included in NBC’s NFL Playoffs coverage plan, which reportedly came as a surprise to him. Michaels is tied with Pat Summerall with a record 11 Super Bowl TV broadcasts.
A JEWISH PIRATE. It’s been a slow MLB offseason for most players not named Shohei Ohtani, but one Jewish free agent is officially off the board: slugger Rowdy Tellez has signed a one-year, $3.2 million contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates — which, yes, means Tellez’s salary for the 2024 season is technically higher than Ohtani’s.
Jews in sports to watch this weekend
Deni Avdija and the Washington Wizards host the Indiana Pacers tonight at 7 p.m. ET and face the Phoenix Suns Sunday at 8 p.m. ET. Domantas Sabonis (who is converting to Judaism) and the Sacramento Kings host the Utah Jazz tomorrow at 10 p.m. ET. In the G League, Ryan Turell and the Motor City Cruise play the Indiana Mad Ants (fantastic name, by the way) today at 12:30 p.m. ET and the Windy City Bulls Sunday at 6 p.m. ET. And across the pond in the British Women’s Basketball League, former WNBA player Abby Meyers and her London Lions host the Durham Palatinates tomorrow at 8 a.m. ET. Meyers enjoyed her best performance of the season so far last Sunday, dropping 28 points.
Adam Fox and the first-place New York Rangers host the last-place Anaheim Ducks tonight at 7 p.m. ET. Jason Zucker and the Arizona Coyotes host Luke Kunin and the San Jose Sharks tonight at 9 p.m. ET and Devon Levi’s Buffalo Sabres tomorrow at 8 p.m. ET. Cole Guttman and the Chicago Blackhawks host Quinn Hughes and the Vancouver Canucks Sunday at 3 p.m. ET.
Greg Joseph and the Minnesota Vikings face the Cincinnati Bengals Saturday at 1 p.m. ET. On Sunday at 1 p.m. ET, catch Michael Dunn and the Cleveland Browns hosting the Chicago Bears, while A.J. Dillon and the Green Bay Packers host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Jake Curhan and the Seattle Seahawks wrap up Week 15 against the Philadelphia Eagles Monday at 8:15 p.m. ET on “Monday Night Football.”
Matt Turner and Nottingham Forest take on Tottenham today at 3 p.m. ET. Nottingham Forest haven’t won a match since Nov. 5, and Tottenham, who are currently fifth in the Premier League standings, are still without Israeli star Manor Solomon, who had knee surgery in October.
A hefty price tag
The news of two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani’s mind-boggling 10-year, $700 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers elicited plenty of clever reactions to the historic amount of money involved. This was our favorite:
$700 million is nuts. That’s like almost enough to feed a family of four at the Yankee Stadium Kosher stand
— Max Mannis (@MaxMannis) December 9, 2023
Comedian Who Orchestrated ‘Antisemitic Rally’ is Banned by Top London Theater
A leading London theater has banned the comedian whose show last weekend caused a furor after it turned into what some members of the audience likened to an “antisemitic rally.”
In a statement on Monday, the Soho Theater said that the comedian, Paul Currie, would not be “invited back to perform at our venue.”
During his show last Saturday night, Jewish members of the audience were hounded out of the auditorium by a baying crowd led by Currie — whose mimed show purposefully includes music but no verbal communication with the audience — after one Jewish man, who is an Israeli citizen, refused to stand in tribute to the Palestinian flag which Currie brought on stage.
After the round of applause was over, Currie pointed to the man and quizzed him over why he had remained seated.
The unnamed Israeli man replied, “I enjoyed your show until you brought out the Palestinian flag.” An infuriated Currie began screaming, “Leave my show now! Get out of my f—-ing show!” in response.
As the man and his partner rose to leave, accompanied by a handful of other shocked audience members, the assembled crowd began chanting “Get out” and “Free Palestine.”
In a written complaint to the theater over his treatment, the man wrote: “Shaken and feeling threatened by the growing antagonism, we exited and tried to complain/get some support from the front-of-house team at the theatre, who were not very sympathetic but did give us an email address to make a complaint. By this time, the show had ended and the audience started exiting, a number of whom were glaring at us aggressively and in a very threatening way. We all left the scene.”
He added: “Our friends later received a message from someone they knew who had also been at the show, saying that after we left, the situation became even more inflamed. What had been intended to be an evening of comedy turned out to be what felt like an antisemitic rally.”
In its statement disavowing Currie, the Soho Theater noted that “following the end of Paul Currie’s show, ‘Shtoom,’ Jewish members of the audience were subjected to verbal abuse and the performer aggressively demanding they leave the theater.”
It continued: “Such appalling actions are unacceptable and have no place on our stages, now or ever. We will not be inviting Paul Currie back to perform at our venue.”
The theater said that it had met with representatives of the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA), which has been providing support and advice to the affected audience members, as well as with the police.
In a separate statement, the CAA expressed appreciation for the theater’s decision, confirming that it was still examining legal action against Currie under British anti-discrimination laws.
It said that the theater “has engaged with us positively and swiftly. It is clear that the venue was caught by surprise. The show was supposed to be non-verbal, and had been on previous evenings. Soho Theatre has clearly condemned Paul Currie and confirmed that he will never again perform on their stage. The theatre is cooperating with the police investigation. We will be arranging for senior representatives of the theatre to meet with Jewish members of the audience to talk about what happened.”
The CAA emphasized that it was “continuing to review legal options in respect of Mr Currie and are discussing the matter with members of the audience.”
The post Comedian Who Orchestrated ‘Antisemitic Rally’ is Banned by Top London Theater first appeared on Algemeiner.com.
Jewish Man Stabbed Six Times During Antisemitic Assault in Paris
Police in Paris have arrested a man over the stabbing of a Jewish man on Monday night by a former friend of the victim who is said to have become “obsessed” with Jews.
According to an eyewitness, the 35-year-old victim, who has not been named, was walking with his partner in the 14th arrondissement of the French capital when they were confronted by the assailant, who was armed with a knife. The assailant was reported to have uttered antisemitic invective before stabbing the man in the back six times.
Police said that the victim was rushed to hospital for emergency treatment. Journalists who visited the site of the attack on Tuesday reported that blood stains still remained on the sidewalk outside the launderette where the stabbing took place.
According to Le Parisien, a news outlet, the assailant fled down a nearby street after stabbing his victim. He was arrested several hours later at his home address. The paper said that the victim and the assailant had been friendly during childhood and had recently “reconnected,” only for the victim to discover that his former friend has developed an “obsession” with Jews. The victim had already filed a complaint with the police for antisemitic threats and malicious phone calls from the assailant.
Residents and traders in the area where the attack took place expressed their shock. “The world has gone crazy,” one fruit stall holder told Le Parisien. “Most of the time here, it’s quiet. Everybody knows each other.”
In a statement posted to X/Twitter, the Union of Jewish Students in France (UEJF) said it was “deeply shocked” by the attack.
“All our thoughts are with the victim, to whom we wish a speedy recovery,” the UEJF said.
Antisemitic incidents have skyrocketed in France since the Oct. 7 Hamas pogrom in Israel.
Last month, the French-Jewish umbrella organization Crif disclosed that 1676 antisemitic incidents had been recorded in 2023 — four times the number registered during the previous year and an unprecedented record.
While in past years the majority of the incidents involved vandalism of property, in 2023, 58 percent of the incidents recorded were directed against people, with 13 percent occurring in schools.
The Oct. 7 atrocities had “acted like a catalyst for hatred by activating latent antisemitism,” Crif president Yonathan Arfi said.
The post Jewish Man Stabbed Six Times During Antisemitic Assault in Paris first appeared on Algemeiner.com.
An Israeli Baseball Star Inspires Our Community, and Unites All Jews
The Jewish sports world is abuzz after Assaf Lowengart signed with the New York Boulders of the independent Frontier League, making him the first Israeli-born position player to sign a professional baseball contract in the US. Lowengart signed on Feb. 9, and the local Jewish community of Rockland has already wholeheartedly embraced him.
The support Lowengart has felt from the Jewish community is one reason he is looking forward to joining the Boulders, who play in a county where roughly a third of the residents are Jewish, many of them Orthodox … “Being able to come back there with the big Jewish community, it’s going to be pretty amazing,” Lowengart said. “I’ve been in many colleges, and the Jewish communities usually weren’t that big. So it’s going to be a pretty cool experience being connected to the Jewish community this time, having them behind me, having them support me and being able to contribute back to them.”
This “pretty amazing” support of the heavily Orthodox local community for the secular and nonobservant Lowengart is a masterclass of the Jewish unity — or achdut — that we need so desperately. We’ve seen such achdut, with Israel at war; secular and religious, left and right have connected on the basis of their shared Jewishness as opposed to harping on their differences.
Admittedly, the Boulders are not the Yankees or the Mets; Rockland’s Jewish community is excited to have Lowengart in their county not because he’s a celebrity, but because he’s their brother. That some of these fans may be of a different religious strata than Assaf is of no consequence here, proving the phrase from the Shabbat prayer yekum purkan is alive and well: “kol yisrael achehem” — “all Jews are brothers!”
Rockland’s Jews are continuing a tradition of achdut and baseball. Shtetl Jews who immigrated to America in the early 20th century were known to support Jewish ballplayers with fierce attachment. Some didn’t understand or even like baseball, but if a Jew was in the lineup, they would go to support him. This came to a head in 1923, when the New York Giants baseball team had a problem. The cross-town Bronx squad, the Yankees, had Babe Ruth, the Sultan of Swat, whose towering home runs drew fans, ticket sales, and wins away from the Giants.
How to get fans and victory back to the Polo Grounds? Giants manager John McGraw explained: “We appreciate that many of the fans in New York are Jews, and we have been trying to land a prospect of Jewish blood.” They signed Mose Solomon, who set the minor league home run record that year, billed as “The Rabbi of Swat,” to compete with Ruth. And in his first week as a Giant, the plan was working as Mose batted .375 and drew tremendous crowds of Jews coming to see him. But that was it: one week, and Solomon was gone from the Majors forever, as his terrible fielding made him a liability. The Yankees went on to win their first World Series that year, have dominated the game ever since, and ran the Giants out of town to San Francisco.
But the Jews who came to watch Solomon in the two games he appeared in didn’t care that he was a clumsy outfielder. He was a fellow Jew. We wish Assaf Lowengart better luck on the field than Mose, and continued Jewish solidarity, love, and support.
The post An Israeli Baseball Star Inspires Our Community, and Unites All Jews first appeared on Algemeiner.com.