MELBOURNE (JTA) — Jews in Australia have seen their community prosper in many areas, from business to the arts to the highest levels of government.
But there is one arena that Aussie Jews have not featured prominently in: Australia’s biggest sport, Australian Rules Football (AFL).
AFL, referred to colloquially as “footy,” is a uniquely Aussie sport, which has been played in some form since teams from Melbourne and Geelong first came together in a paddock in East Melbourne in 1858.
Professional footy is played between two teams of 18 players using an oval ball. Goals are scored when the ball is kicked, airborne, through two tall goalposts set on each end of the oval field. It is similar to rugby but has more players, an oval-shaped pitch and different rules regarding kicking, throwing and tackling.
While many Jews are passionate fans and have been involved with the game’s administration, such as Rabbi Joseph Gutnick, the former president of Melbourne Football club, few Jews have ever played at the highest level of the game.
This has changed with the drafting of a Jewish player, Harry Sheezel, who was selected in November as the 3rd overall pick in the 2022 AFL draft.
A bonafide prodigy, the 18-year-old Sheezel began his footy journey in a local Jewish sporting league, as a member of AJAX (Associated Judaean Athletic Clubs), Australia’s only Jewish football club. Sheezel also graduated from Melbourne’s largest Jewish day school, Mount Scopus Memorial College.
According to Ashley Browne, an Australian sports journalist who wrote a book about Jewish Australian athletes called “People of the Boot,” there have been 11 Jewish football players since 1897.
“It’s very rare for a Jewish player to be drafted to the AFL. It’s been quite incredible,” he said, referring to Sheezel’s meteoric rise. “He spent his whole life at Jewish school. He learned to play football at a Jewish football club. A lot of promising Jewish athletes will go to a [non-Jewish] private school for coaching where there are talent scouts, but Harry stayed at Mount Scopus without having to go to the private school.”
Sheezel is already making a mark. Since debuting in March 2023, he has been ranked in the AFL’s top 10 in disposals — a stat referring to legal touches of the football, which indicates how involved one is in a game (while throwing is allowed in rugby, it isn’t in footy). He set an all-time record for most disposals for a player in their first four professional games (with 127).
After just his first game, his two-year team contract was immediately extended through 2026 and he was nominated for the AFL Rising Star award, which acknowledges the best new player in league competition. The footy season began in March and ends in September.
“You don’t want to get too excited too early, but Harry has the potential to perhaps be our greatest-ever male Jewish athlete in Australia,” said Browne.
Mount Scopus, which has produced some famous alumni in its 75-year history — from music industry giant Michal Gudinski to Mark Regev, former Israeli ambassador to the United Kingdom — can now add Harry Sheezel’s name to its list illustrious graduates.
“Clearly his talents were nurtured in many different environments, but I believe that his time playing footy at school was one of them. We have a strong sporting culture and Harry was very much part of that,” said Mount Scopus principal James Kennard.
In Australia, many minority communities have gained a foothold in Australian society though footy. The AFL has produced stellar Australian Aboriginal players and more recently, other players from diverse backgrounds, such as Islam. Newly-arrived refugees have also been able to find new audiences through their footy skills. The league even has a multicultural ambassador program, through which faith leaders and others promote the sport in diverse communities.
As the first Jewish player drafted this century, Sheezel’s rise is a cause for celebration in Australia’s Jewish community.
“To see a young Jewish man, one who is the product of a Jewish school and a Jewish junior football club, be so widely celebrated and applauded is a source of great pride,” said Rabbi Zach Gomo, one of the AFL’s multicultural ambassadors.
“I’ve definitely felt the support from the community since before I got picked up to now, being on an AFL list and playing league football,” Sheezel said in a statement to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “It means a lot to have so much support and genuine care from everyone.”
Those who have coached Sheezel along the way know that he has always been extraordinarily gifted at the sport.
“I coached Harry for 5 years at AJAX Junior Football Club alongside his father Dean,” said Jason Wrobel. “He was always a gun footballer. Even as a 5-year-old, doing Auskick [junior football], he was already very talented.”
Each of Sheezel’s matches have attracted a huge number of Jewish fans, including former Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg. While traditionally most Jewish footy fans align with teams that have roots in Melbourne’s historically Jewish suburbs like Carlton, Sheezel was drafted by the North Melbourne Kangaroos, a team that has relatively few fans within the Jewish community.
But this is rapidly changing, and each of North Melbourne’s games now have a large Jewish cheering section. Some of Sheezel’s footy fans have been seen waving Israeli flags, which conveniently align with North Melbourne’s blue and white color scheme.
Those flags caused a brief brouhaha when a complaint about them being waved at the stadium was lodged with the AFL. While the AFL initially advised that in the future Israeli flags would be banned at matches, they quickly walked back this directive by apologizing for the confusion in March and clarifying that Israeli flags were welcome at matches.
Dean Sheezel, Harry’s father, doesn’t pay attention to any of the negativity.
“We just ignore that. I don’t give it the time of day. Harry has ignored it too and he doesn’t give it the time of day. He focuses on football, and it doesn’t affect him or us in any way,” he said.
Another problem for the immediate Sheezel family is that they now have to support North Melbourne after 50 years of history supporting Hawthorn, another AFL football team based in a suburb of Melbourne.
“We were mad Hawthorn supporters. We are now fully North Melbourne. You wouldn’t have known I barracked for [supported] Hawthorn for 50 years,” said Dean Sheezel.
Based on the extraordinary start to Harry Sheezel’s footy career, the Sheezel family are likely to be joined by thousands of other Jewish and non-Jewish fans alike.
“Harry Sheezel is going to inspire a generation of young footballers,” said Wrobel. “I think it’s a fantastic example of the path that can be taken for lots of young kids. He is definitely a role model. There are going to be boys and girls trying to follow in his footsteps. In the past there have been some Jewish AFL players, but to achieve this level it was considered, by many, that you couldn’t go to a Jewish school or couldn’t play for a Jewish club. But Harry proves you can, and that is exciting for Jewish kids.”
The post Rising football star Harry Sheezel could be ‘greatest ever male Jewish athlete in Australia’ appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.