Beijing Olympics: Jewish Update

We are getting closer and closer to the Beijing Olympics next month, where all the Jews whose baseball teams have nothing left to play for will finally have summer sports worth watching again. In order to get you ready, we will have periodic updates on Israeli Olympic news.

First of all, NBC has some interesting coverage of Israel’s Olympic history and Beijing outlook. NBC says Israel “first competed in 1952 and has since missed only the 1980 Moscow Games, which it boycotted.”

Unfortunately, though, much of the most recent news has been negative.

An Israeli marathon runner was arrested earlier this week on fraud charges. He was released today. And earlier this month, U.S.-born Israeli swimmer Max Jaben tested positive for an anabolic steroid. Jaben is still hopeful the test will be disproved and he will be allowed to compete.

In other news, The Forward has an interesting editorial today about Jewish Olympic participation:

A century ago, movements arose among the Jews of Europe to reclaim Jewish destiny by teaching Jews to reclaim themselves, physically as well as spiritually. Polish yeshiva students reinvented themselves as Israeli farmers. Jewish soccer leagues were created in Vienna and Budapest, and Jewish basketball teams at community centers in Cleveland and Philadelphia helped spawn the National Basketball Association. Jewish scouting and Zionist pioneering clubs in Nazi-occupied Warsaw taught themselves to shoot and staged an uprising. A spirit of Jewish self-reliance was reborn, and it gave Jews the strength to carry on after the horrors of the Holocaust. Today, with new generations of Jews returning in droves to their pallid desks and study halls, that spirit is needed more than ever.

But Forward goes even further, explaining their coverage of the Olympics in an eloquent articulation of the importance of Jewish athleticism:

In next week’s issue, the Forward will take a look at Jewish athletes who will be coming from around the world to compete in the Beijing Olympics. We do this in each Olympic year and every baseball season, partly because we’re proud of them, and more importantly because they are — no less than scholars, artists or philanthropists — a part of the contemporary Jewish experience. We do not do this, as our critics often suggest, in some hope that it will make non-Jews respect Jews, but so that Jews will respect themselves.

Let the games begin.

Benjamin Schuman-Stoler


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