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‘Mitzvah Mania’: A Los Angeles synagogue is hosting a show with Jewish professional wrestlers

LOS ANGELES (JTA) — Colt Cabana, real name Scott Colton, is used to walking out to crowds of hundreds of fans as a member of All Elite Wrestling, a popular show that airs on channels such as TBS and TNT.

On Sunday, he’ll be wrestling at a synagogue.

Temple Beth Am, located in Los Angeles’ heavily Jewish neighborhood of Pico-Robertson, is putting on “Mitzvah Mania,” a one-off show with mostly Jewish wrestlers. It’s pegged to another event taking place this weekend: “WrestleMania,” the annual marquee event for the WWE, the country’s largest professional wrestling series.

“Mitzvah Mania” will break new ground for the synagogue with about 900 member families that typically holds more traditional programming, such as Shabbat dinners, adult education offerings and text study.

“We’re trying to do something different that synagogues haven’t seen before,” said Ari Fife, the synagogue’s director of programming and engagement.

The show, which is being billed as the first of its kind, will include six matches, five of which will feature only Jewish wrestlers who perform at various professional tiers, and one with a Jewish referee.

In addition to Cabana, attendees will see former Jewish WWE stars Lisa Marie Varon (or Victoria, as she was known in the ring) and Chris Mordetzky (a two-time National Wrestling Alliance champion known as Chris Masters and later Chris Adonis).

“Certainly in America, this is the first time there’s been representation in every match on the card, Jewishly,” said Jeremy Fine, a Chicago-area rabbi who planned the event.

The backstory started about seven years ago, when Fine, who runs the Jewish sports blog “The Great Rabbino,” went to his first independent wrestling show and saw Cabana, a fellow native of Deerfield, Illinois.

Fine was living in Minnesota at the time, and he recalled telling some of his congregants about the show. When they suggested putting on a wrestling show at the synagogue, he thought the idea was crazy. (Fine’s former synagogue is still innovating: they recently built an ice skating rink.)

“They were very persistent,” Fine told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “We did it, and it was a huge success. And by our second show, we were sold out in a Minnesota blizzard on a Wednesday evening.”

Fine ended up hosting three wrestling shows at Temple of Aaron Synagogue in St. Paul Jewish with Israeli athletes and entertainers — “Mitzvah Mayhem,” “Hanukkah Havoc” and “Exodus.” It turned into his own wrestling company, 2econd Wrestling, that puts on shows near his current pulpit in Chicago and around the country, including Sunday’s event in L.A.

“Mitzvah Mania” will be Fine’s most Jewish show yet.

Fine had approached Beth Am about the event to tie it to “WrestleMania,” which rotates its location and is this year being held at nearby SoFi Stadium. Fife said the synagogue’s senior staff was hesitant about the idea, even as they set out to hold more unique events.

Fife, who himself grew up a wrestling fan, said there was initially “a lack of understanding of what wrestling really is.” For the uninitiated, professional wrestling in the likes of the WWE and AEW is a far cry from Olympic-style wrestling. In addition to being athletic performers, wrestlers like Cabana are also entertainment figures, complete with detailed costumes and character backstories.

Fife said once everyone understood the storytelling aspect of the sport — and were assured that it’s not as violent as they thought — the idea was approved.

“Mitzvah Mania” is sponsored by a number of Jewish organizations, including Maccabi USA, BBYO and the Jewish National Fund. Fife said Beth Am secured a grant from the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles to help put the event on.

Fine said Jewish interest in wrestling has increased in recent years, in part thanks to Maxwell Jacob Friedman (known simply as “MJF”), the current AEW world champion and an outspoken and proud Jew. Earlier this month, for example, Friedman celebrated his “re-bar mitzvah” as part of an “AEW Dynamite” night on TBS. Jewish fans also cheered when Goldberg, one of the stars of the late 1990s and early 2000s WWE craze, returned to the ring in 2015.

Maxwell Jacob Friedman attends a UFC event at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Dec. 10, 2022. (Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC)

The overlap between Jews and wrestling extends beyond the ring, Fine said, arguing that the connection is biblical — from Jacob wrestling with an angel in Genesis to rabbis intellectually wrestling in the Talmud.

“If we just take that and put it into the context of wrestling, we at our core, are storytellers,” Fine said. “We’re listening to the stories, and we’re incorporating them into our lives and we’re building up. And so wrestling is the greatest platform to struggle, to wrestle and to very much create stories that present a narrative for us to think and root for what’s good and boo what’s evil. That’s the story of Purim!”

He said it’s important for rabbis to go beyond the usual work of teaching the weekly Torah portion, or speaking about antisemitism and Israel. Many wrestlers Fine has worked with will approach him with questions about Judaism — from asking about holidays to basic questions about what a synagogue or JCC is.

“If we’re really going to defeat antisemitism, if we’re really going to be able to have intellectual conversations about the modern State of Israel, what better way to do that than rabbis getting into niche communities and really having those conversations, and not just talking to the congregants who either agree or have heard it before?” Fine said.


The post ‘Mitzvah Mania’: A Los Angeles synagogue is hosting a show with Jewish professional wrestlers appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Obituaries

Dr. NATHAN WISEMAN

Wiseman, Nathan Elliot
1944 – 2023
Nathan, our beloved husband, Dad, and Zaida, died unexpectedly on December 13, 2023. Nathan was born on December 16, 1944, in Winnipeg, MB, the eldest of Sam and Cissie Wiseman’s three children.
He is survived by his loving wife Eva; children Sam (Natalie) and Marni (Shane); grandchildren Jacob, Jonah, Molly, Isabel, Nicole, and Poppy; brother David (Sherrill); sister Barbara (Ron); sister-in-law Agi (Sam) and many cousins, nieces, and nephews.
Nathan grew up in the north end of Winnipeg surrounded by his loving family. He received his MD from the University of Manitoba in 1968, subsequently completed his General Surgery residency at the University of Manitoba and went on to complete a fellowship in Paediatric Surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital of Harvard University. His surgeon teachers and mentors were world renowned experts in the specialty, and even included a Nobel prize winner.
His practice of Paediatric Surgery at Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg spanned almost half a century. He loved his profession and helping patients, even decades later often recounting details about the many kiddies on whom he had operated. Patients and their family members would commonly approach him on the street and say, “Remember me Dr. Wiseman?”. And he did! His true joy was caring for his patients with compassion, patience, unwavering commitment, and excellence. He was a gifted surgeon and leaves a profound legacy. He had no intention of ever fully retiring and operated until his very last day. He felt privileged to have the opportunity to mentor, support and work with colleagues, trainees, nurses, and others health care workers that enriched his day-to-day life and brought him much happiness and fulfillment. He was recognized with many awards and honors throughout his career including serving as Chief of Surgery of Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg, President of the Canadian Association of Pediatric Surgeons, and as a Governor of the American College of Surgeons. Most importantly of all he helped and saved the lives of thousands and thousands of Manitoba children. His impact on the generations of children he cared for, and their families, is truly immeasurable.
Nathan’s passion for golf was ignited during his childhood summers spent at the Winnipeg Beach Golf Course. Southwood Golf and Country Club has been his second home since 1980. His game was excellent and even in his last year he shot under his age twice! He played an honest “play as it lies” game. His golf buddies were true friends and provided him much happiness both on and off the course for over forty years. However, his passion for golf extended well beyond the eighteenth hole. He immersed himself in all aspects of the golf including collecting golf books, antiques, and memorabilia. He was a true scholar of the game, reading golf literature, writing golf poetry, and even rebuilding and repairing antique golf clubs. Unquestionably, his knowledge and passion for the game was limitless.
Nathan approached his many woodworking and workshop projects with zeal and creativity, and he always had many on the go. During the winter he was an avid curler, and in recent years he also enjoyed the study of Yiddish. Nathan never wasted any time and lived his life to the fullest.
Above all, Nathan was a loving husband, father, grandfather, son, father-in-law, son-in-law, uncle, brother, brother-in-law, cousin, and granduncle. He loved his family and lived for them, and this love was reciprocated. He met his wife Eva when he was a 20-year-old medical student, and she was 18 years old. They were happily married for 56 years. They loved each other deeply and limitlessly and were proud of each other’s accomplishments. He loved the life and the family they created together. Nathan was truly the family patriarch, an inspiration and a mentor to his children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, and many others. He shared his passion for surgery and collecting with his son and was very proud to join his daughter’s medical practice (he loved Thursdays). His six grandchildren were his pride and joy and the centre of his world.
Throughout his life Nathan lived up to the credo “May his memory be a blessing.” His life was a blessing for the countless newborns, infants, toddlers, children, and teenagers who he cared for, for his colleagues, for his friends and especially for his family. We love him so much and there are no words to describe how much he will be missed.
A graveside funeral was held at the Shaarey Zedek cemetery on December 15, 2023. Pallbearers were his loving grandchildren. The family would like to extend their gratitude to Rabbi Yosef Benarroch of Adas Yeshurun Herzlia Congregation.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba, in the name of Dr. Nathan Wiseman.

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A number of speakers addressed the crowd of 800, including Rabbi Yosef Benarroch of Adas Yeshurun-Herzlia Congregation; Members of Parliament Ben Carr & Marty Morantz; Yolanda Papini-Pollock of Winnipeg Friends of Israel; Paula McPherson, former Brock Corydon teacher; and Gustavo Zentner, President of the Jewish Federation.

Ben Carr

Click here to watch Ben Carr’s remarks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crfREGNRKfg

Marty Morantz

Click here to watch a video of Marty Morantz’s remarks: https://studio.youtube.com/video/zHzC-iaqivg/ed

Gustavo Zentner

Click here to watch a video of Gustavo Zentner’s remarks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3M_cCYuLgs

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