המאמן של קבוצת הכדורסל מכבי אשדוד באר טוביה, בראד גרינברג (יהודי אמריקני), מונה לעוזר מאמן נבחרת קנדה, לאליפות העולם בכדורסל, שתיערך בסין החל מסוף החודש הבא. גרינברג ישמש אחד מארבעת עוזרים של המאמן הראשי, ניק נרס. גרינברג הוא בן שישים וחמש ונולד בלונג איינלד בארה”ב.
הוא שימש במשך שתיים עשרה שנים בתפקיד עוזר מאמן של קבוצת הלוס אנג’לס קליפרס. קודם לכן הוא שימש בתפקיד הסקאוט בקבוצת הניו יורק ניקס. ולפני כן הוא החזיק במספר תפקידים מקצועיים בקבוצת הפורטלנד בלייזרס. וכן שימש בתפקיד מנהל כללי של קבוצת הפילדלפיה סיקרס. לאחר סיום אליפות העולם בסין יחזור גרינברג לאמן את מכבי אשדוד המשחקת בליגת העל בכדורסל בישראל, זו העונה השלישית ברציפות. הוא יחזור לישראל רק במהלך חודש ספטמבר (בגלל אליפות העולם) ויחמיץ לכן את תחילת האימוני הקבוצה, לעונה החדשה שפתח וכן משחקי גביע ווינר. את האימונים יעביר במקומו עוזרו בשנתיים האחרונות דני גוט. תחת שרביטו מכבי אשדוד בעונתו הראשונה הגיעה למקום למקום הרביעי בליגת העל הישראלית, וכן הגיעה לחצי הגמר בגביע המדינה. בעונה שעברה הקבוצה הגיעה למקום למקום התשיעי בלבד. בשנים האחרונות משמש גרינברג בתפקיד המאמן הראשי של נבחרת קוסבו בכדורסל. לפני שהגיע למכבי אשדוד אימן גרינברג בישראל את קבוצת הפועל ירושלים במשך שלוש שנים. ההישג הגדול ביותר שלו עם הפועל ירושלים היה הגעה לרבע גמר היורוקאפ. לפני ירושלים הוא אימן את קבוצת מכבי חיפה במשך עונה אחת.
הנבחרת הלאומית של קנדה לגברים נמצאת במקום העשרים ושלושה בעולם בדירוג של התאחדות הכדורסל הבינלאומית (פיב”א). הנבחרת הקנדית נחשבת לנבחרת ברמה בינונית בעולם. ההישג המשמעותי שלה הייה זכייה במקום השני במשחקים האולימפיים בשנת אלף תשע מאות שלושים ושש. באליפות יבשת אמריקה לכדורסל הנבחרת הקנדית הגיעה פעמיים למקום השני (באלף תשע מאות ושמונים ובאלף תשע מאות תשעים ותשע). ההישג הטוב ביותר של הקנדים היה מקום שישי באליפות העולם בכדורסל בשנת אלף תשע מאות שמונים ושתיים.
אליפות העולם בכדורסל הקרובה או כמו שהיא נקראת רשמית גביע העולם בכדורסל אלפיים ותשע עשרה, תיערך ברפובליקה העממית של סין, בין השלושים ואחד באוגוסט לחמישה עשר בספטמבר. האירוע מאורגן על ידי התאחדות הכדורסל הבינלאומית ואיגוד הכדורסל הסיני. המשחקים יערכו בשמונה ההערים הבאות: בייג’ינג, נאנג’ינג, שאנגחאי, ווהאן, פושאן, דונגגוואן, שנג’ן וגואנגג’ואו. אולמות הכדורסל בערים אלה יכולים להכיל בין שלושה עשר לשמונה עשר אלף צופים.
המכרז לבחירת המארחת של אליפות העולם בכדורסל נפתח בחודש אפריל לפני חמש שנים. שנה לאחר מכן הוחלט שהמשחקים יערכו ביבשת אסיה. על כן שתי הצעות סופיות הגיעו לגמר של המכרז: של סין ושל הפיליפינים. לאחר מספר חודשים נפל הפור והוחלט שסין תארח את משחקי האליפות לשנת אלפיים ותשע עשרה.
בחודש פברואר השנה הסתיימו הטורנירים של המוקדמות לאליפות העולם ונקבעו שלושים ושתיים הנבחרות שישתתפו בתחרות. מיבשת אירופה ישתתפו שתיים עשרה נבחרות והן: איטליה, גרמניה, טורקיה, יוון, ליטא, מונטגרו, ספרד, סרביה, פולין, צ’כיה, צרפת ורוסיה. מיבשות אסיה ואוקיאניה ישתתפו שמונה נבחרות והן: סין שמארחת את המשחקים, אוסטרליה, איראן, הפיליפינים, יפן, ירדן, ניו זינלד, ודרום קוריאה. מיבשת אמריקה ישתתפו שבע נבחרות והן: ארגנטינה, ארצות הברית, ברזיל, הרפובליקה הדומיניקנית, ונצואלה, פוארטו ריקו וקנדה. מיבשת אפריקה ישתתפו חמש נבחרות והן: אנגולה, חוף השנהב, ניגריה, סנגל ותוניסיה.
Adi Shapira brought home a silver medal for British Columbia in the 2019 Canada Winter Games. (photo by Peter Fuzessery Moonlight Canada)
From Feb. 15 to March 3, Red Deer and central Alberta hosted the 2019 Canada Winter Games. Among those taking home a medal was Adi Shapira.
Winning the silver in the archery recurve, individual female event, Shapira said in a Team BC article, “It is an amazing reward for all the training I have been doing and it is just an amazing accomplishment.”
According to the Canada Winter Games website, Shapira, “who had taken up archery following a school retreat in grades 8 and 9, fought hard in the gold medal match, but Marie-Ève Gélinas, came back to win the gold for Quebec.”
Shapira, 16, is part of the SPARTS program at Magee Secondary School, which is open to students competing in high-performance athletics at the provincial, national or international level, as well as students in the arts who are performing at a high level of excellence. Last November, she won the qualifying tournaments against other female archers ages 15 to 20 to represent the province of British Columbia in the February national games.
* * *
Stylin’ Or Shalom on Feb. 20 was not just a beautiful evening: the event raised $1,600 for Battered Women’s Support Services so that they can continue their important work.
Models for the fashion-show fundraiser were Ross Andelman, Avi Dolgin, Val Dolgin, Carol Ann Fried, Michal Fox, Dalia Margalit-Faircloth, Helen Mintz, Ana Peralta, Avril Orloff and Leora Zalik. About 50 people attended and, between cash donations and purchases from the My Sister’s Closet eco-thrift store, this year’s show raised about $600 more than did the inaugural Stylin’ Or Shalom event held in 2017. In addition, many people brought clothing donations, which will be sold at the store, generating further funds for the organization.
* * *
The Association for Canadian Jewish Studies has announced that Dr. Norma Baumel Joseph is the 2019 recipient of the Louis Rosenberg Canadian Jewish Studies Distinguished Service Award. Joseph brings together the highest standards of scholarship, creative and effective dissemination of research, and activism in a manner without rival in the field of Canadian Jewish studies, as well as being a respected voice in Jewish feminist studies more broadly.
Joseph’s scholarship is remarkable for her mastery of both traditional rabbinic sources and anthropological methods. Her work on the responsa of Rabbi Moses Feinstein, including an award-winning article published in American Jewish History 83,2 (1995), is based on a close reading of some of the most technical and difficult halachic texts. Her mastery of these sources is also apparent in articles on women and prayer, the mechitzah, and the bat mitzvah. She has used her knowledge of halachah in her academic work on Jewish divorce in Canada, including an article in Studies in Religion (2011) and is a collaborator in a recently awarded grant project, Troubling Orthopraxies: A Study of Jewish Divorce in Canada.
As a trained anthropologist and as a feminist, she realizes that food is also a text and she has made important contributions to both the history of Iraqi Jews in Canada and to our understanding of the history of food in the Jewish community. Her Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC)-funded research has resulted in recent essays such as “From Baghdad to Montreal: Food, Gender and Identity.” Her ongoing reflections on Jewish women in Canada, first appearing as early as 1981 in the volume Canadian Jewish Mosaic, are foundational texts in the study of Jewish women in Canada.
Joseph has chosen to disseminate her research and wisdom in a variety of ways. Her undergraduate and graduate students at Concordia praise her innovative student-centred teaching. Recently, she instituted a for-credit internship at the Alex Dworkin Canadian Jewish archives, which has been beneficial to both the student and the archive. She is in demand as a lecturer in both professional and lay settings. Her work in film has reached a wide audience. In Half the Kingdom, a 1989 NFB documentary on Jewish women and Judaism, she explores with sensitivity the challenges – and rewards – of being both a feminist and an Orthodox Jew. She served as consultant to the film, and was a co-author of the accompanying guidebook.
Since 2002, Joseph has also committed herself to public education by taking on the task of writing a regular column on Jewish life for the Canadian Jewish News. Her views are based on a deep understanding of Judaism and contemporary Jewish life and are worthy of anthologizing.
Joseph is a founding member of the Canadian Coalition of Jewish Women for the Get and worked for the creation of a Canadian law to aid and protect agunot. As part of her Women for the Get work, she participated in the educational film Untying the Bonds: Jewish Divorce, produced by the Coalition of Jewish Women for the Get in 1997. She has also worked on the issue of agunot, as well as advocated for the creation of a prayer space for women at the Western Wall among international Jewish organizations.
Joseph helped in the founding of the Institute for Canadian Jewish Studies at Concordia, and convened the institute from 1994 to 1997, when a chair was hired. She was also a founder and co-director of Concordia University’s Azrieli Institute for Israel Studies. In 1998, she was appointed chair of the Canadian Jewish Congress National Archives Committee, and has remained in the position since then, under the new designation of chair of the advisory committee for the Alex Dworkin Canadian Jewish Archives (CJA). In this capacity, Joseph has been a forceful and effective advocate for protecting and promoting the preservation of Canadian Jewish archival material and for appreciating the professionalism of the staff. She has lent her time and experience to multiple meetings and interventions at various crucial junctures in the recent history of the CJA, during which she has balanced and countered arguments that would have led to the dissolution or extreme diminishing of the archives as we know it. Her work on behalf of the archives has drawn her into diverse committees and consultations. Notably, she contributed her expertise to the chairing of a sub-committee convened by Parks Canada when their Commemorative Places section was in search of Canadian Jewish women-related content. Her suggestions made during the 2005 meetings have resulted in several site designations over the course of the past 12 years.
Joseph has had a unique role in Canadian Jewish studies and Canadian Jewish life, and is richly deserving of the Louis Rosenberg Award.
* * *
In February, Janie Respitz of Montreal won the prize for best interpretation of an existing Yiddish song at the final Der Idisher Idol contest in Mexico City. She performed “Kotsk,” a song about a small town in Poland, which was the seat of the Kotsker rebbe, the founder of a Chassidic dynasty in the 18th century. The win included $500 US.
Respitz holds a master’s degree in Yiddish language and literature and, for the past 25 years, has performed concerts around the world. She has lectured and taught the subject, including at Queen’s University and McGill University, and is on the faculty of KlezKanada, the annual retreat in the Laurentians.
Respitz was among nine finalists, both local and foreign, who were invited to perform at Mexico City’s 600-seat Teatro del Parque Interlomas before a panel of judges and a live audience.
The competition is in its fourth edition, but Respitz only heard about it last year. She submitted a video of her performing “Kotsk” in September and received word in December that she was in the running.
A Yiddish song contest in Mexico City may seem odd, but the city has a large Jewish community, many with roots in eastern Europe, much like Montreal. The winner for best original song was Louisa Lyne of Malmo, Sweden, who’s also a well-established performer of Yiddish works.
– Excerpted from CJN; for the full article, visit cjnews.com
* * *
On March 14, at the New School in New York, the National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) announced the recipients of its book awards for publishing year 2018. The winners include Nora Krug, who was given the prize in autobiography for Belonging: A German Reckons With History and Home (Scribner). “Krug creates a stunningly effective, often moving portrait of Krug’s memories and her exploration of the people who came before her,” said NBCC president Kate Tuttle.
Krug’s drawings and visual narratives have appeared in the New York Times, Guardian and Le Monde diplomatique. Her short-form graphic biography Kamikaze, about a surviving Japanese Second World War pilot, was included in the 2012 editions of Best American Comics and Best American Nonrequired Reading. She is the recipient of fellowships from the Maurice Sendak Foundation, Fulbright, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, and of medals from the Society of Illustrators and the New York Art Directors Club. She is an associate professor at Parsons School of Design in New York and lives in Brooklyn with her family.
The National Book Critics Circle was founded in 1974 at New York’s legendary Algonquin Hotel by a group of the most influential critics of the day. It currently comprises 750 working critics and book-review editors throughout the United States. For more information about the awards and NBCC, visit bookcritics.org.
Sarah Jacobsohn is the Ultimate Canada 2018 Junior Female Athlete of the Year. (photo from Sarah Jacobsohn)
Last month, Ultimate Canada named Sarah Jacobsohn the 2018 Junior Female Athlete of the Year.
“I was in the middle of biology class, looked at my phone, and saw that one of my teammates had texted me saying congratulations and a long paragraph,” recalled Jacobsohn about hearing of the award. “And I was like, what’s going on? I had no idea.
“Then, I saw the article that was written about me and I got the notification that they had selected me for the award … and I started crying in the middle of class and I called my mom. It was so surreal and just amazing.”
Jacobsohn was born in St. Louis, Mo., in 2000, and moved with her parents and older sister to Winnipeg in 2006. She has been attending Gray Academy of Jewish Education since then, and will be graduating this year.
Athleticism runs in the family. Both of Jacobsohn’s parents played sports into adulthood. She also gets her height from her parents: her mom is 5’11” and her dad is just over six feet.
Jacobsohn has played sports for as long as she can remember. “I played Timbits soccer since I was in Grade 1, then I continued playing competitive tennis and soccer. Once I found ultimate, I quit all those other sports to play ultimate,” she told the Independent. “For my high school, I still play volleyball, basketball and ultimate but, on a competitive level, I gave the others up for ultimate.” (That said, she remains a competitive player at the other sports. For example, on the school’s varsity basketball team, she has been averaging 37 points per game.)
Ultimate was designed to be played without referees. “The spirit of the game is heavily emphasized, which is something you don’t find a lot in competitive sports in this day and age,” said Jacobsohn. “Essentially, it’s about maintaining a level of sportsmanship and integrity while playing the sport. You have to make the calls yourself and communicate with other players on the other team. And, it’s always maintained, that sportsmanship and respect for other players. Even at the highest level, ultimate is still heavily dependent on player communication, which I think is amazing.”
At the higher levels, there are “observers,” who help the players regulate the game, but they only intervene when asked by the players to do so. And, even after having been asked for their opinion, it is still up to the players to accept or disregard an observer’s call.
“I think that’s what a lot of sports have lost in the past few decades,” said Jacobsohn. “That competitive atmosphere takes away from the sportsmanship, and it shouldn’t. There should be a balance.”
In ultimate, she said, “people understand that, to keep that respect of the game, they have to be honest. It’s really amazing to see that, even at the highest level.”
Jacobsohn started playing ultimate in Grade 6 and, at 14 years old, her coach convinced her to try out for the provincial junior team. She made the team, as one of the youngest in the group. It was there that a national coach spotted her and, at age 15, she traveled to Vancouver for the national tryouts and made the team.
Jacobsohn participated in her first world championship in Poland in 2016, and Canada took home the gold. Last summer, Jacobsohn, as captain, led the provincial team to a gold medal. She went on to captain Team Canada to a bronze medal at the world championship in Waterloo, Ont.
All of these feats, as well as her extensive involvement in the ultimate and broader communities, contributed to Jacobsohn being chosen for the athlete-of-the-year award.
“The award is strictly based on achievements from the past year,” said Jacobsohn. “So, last year, I was captain of my provincial team and we won gold at nationals for the first time ever. Then, as captain of Team Canada, we won bronze at the worlds. And, I’ve done a lot of community stuff locally.
“I’ve been involved in the Winnipeg ultimate community for six or seven years, which is a lot, when I’m only 18 years old. I’ve gotten to know essentially the entire ultimate community. I’ve literally grown up in this community – finding a lot of leadership opportunities in it and chances to voice my opinion. I fight a lot for gender equity and voice that opinion a lot in the Winnipeg ultimate community.”
Jacobsohn serves on the Manitoba Disk Sports board, offering suggestions, as a high school student, about tournament arrangements and how the province runs the sport. She also has been very involved in the Winnipeg Ultimate Women’s Competitive League, helping to get a lot of juniors involved.
“As a very competitive female athlete, I understand my responsibility growing up as a female athlete in today’s world,” she said. “I have an immense responsibility to stand up and role model for other female athletes, and I’m not scared to do that.
“And, going to school where I’m one of six girls in my grade, I’ve been able to gain respect from a lot of boys and change perspectives on what being a female athlete means.”
Now, Jacobsohn is busy training for the under-24 national team tryouts. And, while her main aspiration is to become a doctor, like her dad, she is hoping to continue playing ultimate competitively for many years to come.
Michael Landsberg will deliver the
talk Darkness and Hope: Depression, Sport and Me on Feb. 13, as part of Jewish
Family Services’ Family Life Education Series. (photo from JFS)
Michael Landsberg is a Canadian sports
journalist and former host of Off the Record for TSN. He is also a
passionate advocate for removing the stigma around mental illness, and will be
coming to Vancouver next month to deliver the talk Darkness and Hope:
Depression, Sport and Me. A Jewish Family Services (JFS) Family Life Education
event, the talk will be held at Congregation Beth Israel on Feb. 13, with all
proceeds going to support JFS mental health initiatives in the community.
Landsberg, who suffers from depression and
generalized anxiety disorder, has in recent years been an ambassador for Bell
Let’s Talk, an initiative that raises awareness and encourages dialogue about
mental health. In 2013, his documentary, Darkness and Hope: Depression,
Sports and Me, was nominated for a Canadian Screen Award for best history
or biography documentary program or series. The Canadian Alliance on Mental
Illness and Mental Health has named Landsberg one of its Champions of Mental
Health. Landsberg is known for his Twitter hashtag #sicknotweak, which
encourages discussion around mental health and creates a forum for those
“We’re thrilled and delighted to have Michael
Landsberg come and do a talk at Beth Israel,” said Alan Stamp, clinical
counseling director at JFS. “He has become an ambassador and a pioneer for
mental health. He took a risk coming out about his struggles, [and] for him to
come out and share his experiences is quite captivating. What he does best of
all is he addresses stigma and, when someone in his role can speak out, it
helps to lessen the suffering of the one in five Canadians – which is a
conservative estimate in my opinion – who experiences a mental health concern
over their lifetime.”
In Vancouver, Landsberg will be doing a
one-hour talk with a question-and-answer period afterwards. He spoke to the Jewish
Independent about helping people struggling with mental health issues.
“In general, sports mimics life,” he said.
“When I speak about life and the stigma around mental health, I know we’re not
as far ahead as we think we are. I don’t think we’re nearly as far ahead as we
would want to believe. We’ve been working hard and it’s way better, yet I hear
from people in the sports world all the time who are still in the closet, or
they’re feeling shame.”
A major focus of Landsberg’s work is combating
the idea that mental illness is a sign of weakness or is something
“That is the arrogance of mental health,” he
said. “Mentally healthy people sometimes believe that they would have been able
to overcome the illness – they don’t understand the reality that people with
mental health issues face, and how unchosen and beyond their control it can
actually be. I try to educate the non-sufferer to better understand what mental
illness is, and that it is like any other illness, no different from a physical
There are a number of reasons why both Stamp
and Landsberg feel sport is a good entry point for this discussion.
“I’m a huge believer that the best way to break
people of the stigma is to find really strong people, like Clara Hughes, who
have struggled with this, to talk about it,” said Landsberg.
Hughes, a Canadian cyclist and speed skater who
has won multiple Olympic medals in both sports, has struggled with depression.
“If [Hughes] was close at the end of the race, she would win. If you find that
even a person of that strength and accomplishment can suffer from depression,
it changes your perspective,” said Landsberg. “Everyone with depression feels
that they are not understood, [but] when you hear someone else talk about it,
then you know we all feel some things in common, and … that is incredibly
empowering. Real-life examples are great.”
Landsberg has also partnered with firefighters
who suffer from mental health issues, encouraging them to share their stories.
Landsberg and Stamp believe that reaching youth
is key to changing the future, and sports can be key in doing that.
“We have to help younger people to understand
that mental health concerns are a natural part of being alive,” said Stamp. “We
have to do that much younger, like 6 or 7 years old. They need to know that
when you feel distress, there is a way out.
“We have to start with language,” he said. “How
do we describe somebody who is struggling? Children can be injured by the
labels we use … we should be teaching youth and adults how to be listeners,
how to approach someone and see if they need help. Having some education around
a mental health problem is tremendously impactful. We need to be kinder,
gentler and more empathic in our dealings with people.”
Tickets to hear Landsberg speak are $10 and are available from jfsvancouver.ca or 604-257-5151.
Matthew Gindinis a freelance journalist, writer and
lecturer. He is Pacific correspondent for the CJN, writes regularly for
the Forward, Tricycle and the Wisdom Daily, and has been
published in Sojourners, Religion Dispatches and elsewhere. He
can be found on Medium and Twitter.
Israeli judo master Arik Zeevi will speak at FEDtalks Sept. 16. (photo from JFGV)
When we’re faced with a challenge, most of us are naturally cautious. But, says Israeli judo master Arik Zeevi, if you have a passion for something, go for it, explore it and, even if you fail, “you will always be proud that you took the challenge.”
Zeevi, who will be one of four keynote speakers at this year’s FEDtalks Sept. 16, advises in a 2014 TED Talk, “Go for the challenge because, I personally think that, by taking a challenge, that is the best way to grow, to improve your life.”
In that TED Talk, Zeevi shares the story of his experience at the 2001 World Judo Championship. Having trained intensely for two years and becoming a national hero in Israel – and with his journey to the championship being filmed by a team of videographers – Zeevi was “knocked out” (in judo terms, his opponent “threw [him] by ippon”) two minutes after setting foot in the ring.
Undaunted by losing the world championship match, Zeevi, a lightweight, registered to fight in the open match in which fighters of any weight could spar. Friends and colleagues warned him to back out, and the Israeli media fretted over what injuries he might sustain. But, Zeevi beat one opponent, a second, then a third; the fourth knocked him down. Though he failed to win the gold medal, he took the silver – and set a precedent. In the years that followed, having witnessed Zeevi’s success, more and more lightweights competed in the open category, and also won medals. The match morphed into its own championship event.
Zeevi won many judo medals in his time, and he is the 2000, 2003, 2004 and 2012 European champion. He is currently ranked eighth in the world, though he retired from fighting in 2012. Today, Zeevi is an inspirational speaker whose main income comes from talking to companies about what he calls “the similar worlds of sports and business.”
“It is all related,” he told the Jewish Independent, “excellence in sport and excellence in life.”
Zeevi also heads the nonprofit Israeli Foundation for Olympic Excellence (IFOE), which hires and funds Olympic coaches who identify, support and train Israeli children and youth they hope have Olympic potential.
“We scout kids who have talent, we try to nurture them and connect them to the sport that is right for them,” said Zeevi. “You could be Michael Phelps, but unless you’re living next to a swimming pool, you’ll never know.
“The biggest problem in Israeli sport,” he said, “is that all sports are coached by amateurs in private clubs. The coaches are getting income according to the numbers of kids, putting quantity over quality. Professional coaching is rare.”
Zeevi grew up in a tough neighbourhood in Bnei Brak and knows what it is like to have few opportunities.
“My coach was very young, and he was like an older brother to me,” said Zeevi. The coach played a role for Zeevi that he is now trying to play for others. “He pushed me to discover myself,” explained Zeevi. “Around 12, I became very serious. Before that, I was just trying to be part of something. At 12, I got my first invitation to train on the national team. My coach was a Soviet Georgian guy – they are fighters, warriors. By 13 or 14, I was already very big, and he pushed me to fight bigger guys. When 15, I won the championship against seniors over 21. He did a great thing for me, pushing me like that. When you find an athlete, you have to challenge them.”
It is the appreciation for what sports did for him that motivates Zeevi to make high-level training available to more young people. “I really believe in sports as education,” he said. “It is the best way to stimulate mental skills, and it teaches you how to deal with stress, failure, difficulty.”
Zeevi himself has three children. His daughter won the Israeli championship in gymnastics, and his middle son is into basketball and judo. Zeevi said his son has also taught him the lesson that sometimes pushing is not what brings success. “The more I push him forward, the more he goes backward,” he said, “so I have to take a gentler approach. The most important thing is just to be there for them. Then they will succeed.”
While in Canada, Zeevi will also be visiting a judo club in Toronto, which is run by an Israeli friend from his training days. There, he will be giving a master class for advanced fighters before he returns to Israel for Yom Kippur.
FEDtalks, which launches the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver’s annual campaign, is being held this year on Sept. 16, 7 p.m., at the Vancouver Playhouse. For tickets and more information, visit jewishvancouver.com.
Matthew Gindin is a freelance journalist, writer and lecturer. He is Pacific correspondent for the CJN, writes regularly for the Forward, Tricycle and the Wisdom Daily, and has been published in Sojourners, Religion Dispatches and elsewhere. He can be found on Medium and Twitter.
Before a soccer match with Maccabi Tel Aviv last week, the Hungarian football team Ferencváros Torna Club paid tribute to István Tóth in what is being heralded as a meaningful move against a creeping antisemitism that has permeated the European sporting world among other spheres.
Tóth was a Ferencváros Torna player and coach in the 1940s before joining the anti-Nazi resistance and saving hundreds of lives, including Jews who he helped escape detention and probable death. Tóth was captured and executed in 1945.
Last week’s game in Budapest was dedicated to Tóth’s memory.
North Americans who were swept up (or bemused) by global soccer mania at the height of the World Cup last weekend can almost appreciate the depths of feeling the sport evokes in much of the world. National feelings – and other high emotions – understandably permeate fan expressions. What is more baffling from afar is the manner in which antisemitism has seeped into the culture of European sport. Among other manifestations, fans from some teams will ridicule or intimidate those of opponents by implying the players or their supporters are Jews. In one instance, fans plastered a town with images of Anne Frank in the opposing team’s uniform. Elsewhere, fans suggested the opponents lacked foreskins. It’s difficult to wrap one’s mind around: that accusations of Jewishness have been used as a tool of intimidation on a playing field. The closest analogy, perhaps, might be the example more common in North American sports, in which opponents are accused of homosexuality. But, with Europe’s history of antisemitism, and the alarming growth of extremist politics across the continent, this hints at a deeper problem. This is why the Budapest event, which was coordinated with the assistance of World Jewish Congress, was as significant as it was. It was an official statement against antisemitism in sport and a testament to a hero of the Holocaust era.
Meanwhile, in a sports competition some distance away, a variant form of political activism, not unrelated to antisemitism, was playing out.
The BDS movement has been trying to isolate Israel in social, economic and cultural spheres. Athletes from Iran and countries with other Israel-hating governments have thrown matches rather than legitimize the Zionist entity, or athletes have refused to shake hands with Israeli competitors. There are even groups urging a boycott of the next Eurovision song contest because, as Israel’s Netta Barzilai was the 2018 victor, Israel will be the host country for next year’s round.
The latest attempt at a boycott, though, comes with a happy ending – and a Canadian twist.
The Iroquois Nationals lacrosse team recently arrived in Israel to participate in the World Men’s Lacrosse Championships. Soccer may be “the world’s game” and hockey may be where many Canadians’ invest our emotional energies, but lacrosse is, officially, our national game. (In a bow to popular demand, Parliament some time ago declared hockey our national “winter” sport and lacrosse our national “summer” sport, but details.) While many Canadians have an almost religious devotion to hockey, the Iroquois refer to lacrosse as “the Creator’s Game.”
The Iroquois team arrived at Ben-Gurion airport with indigenous passports. A few years ago, the team was forced to forfeit their games when the host country, the United Kingdom, refused to accept their travel documents. Israel, on the other hand, welcomed the Iroquois passports after interventions from the Government of Canada and the Canadian embassy in Israel.
While diplomats and respected figures like Irwin Cotler intervened to help, the BDS movement tried to prevent the team from attending. It was a particularly nasty effort, since the Iroquois invented the game. It may have been in this very fact that the BDSers smelled a potential symbolic victory, no matter how offensive the impact would have been on the individual players and the tournament more broadly had the First Nations team – one of the sport’s powerhouses – been excluded. And, as is often the case with the BDS movement, their success would have hurt Arabs as much as anyone. The Iroquois Nationals will lead a coexistence lacrosse clinic for Arab and Jewish young people.
There is a history of friendship, however unlikely, between the Iroquois and Israelis, both indigenous in their homelands. Earlier this year, the Seneca Nation, one of six groups that comprise the Iroquois Confederacy, celebrated Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, issuing a proclamation stating that “the Seneca Nation and the state of Israel share in common a passion for freedom and a willingness to fight for and defend our sovereignty and our shared right to be a free and independent people.”
The lacrosse tournament, which brings together 46 teams in the largest-ever such event, culminates this weekend. It may not elicit the rapturous fandom we saw last weekend in the World Cup. But we certainly have our sentimental favourites.
Ryan Sidhoo’s new docuseries, True North, looks at the youth basketball scene in Toronto. (photo by Yasin Osman)
“Wherever I travel, I go play pickup basketball and I always make friends, and maybe end up at someone’s house for dinner … you go ask to play basketball on someone’s court, there’s always that moment of, ‘Who is this guy?’ but, once you get out there and you start playing, it’s an inviting, universal sport that you don’t need a lot to participate in,” filmmaker Ryan Sidhoo told the Independent in a phone interview from Toronto.
Sidhoo is the creator and director of True North, a nine-part online docuseries produced by the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) and Red Bull Media House about the youth basketball scene in Toronto.
“More and more young Canadians are playing basketball – over 350,000 according to the 2014 Canada Youth Sports Report – and the trend is particularly pronounced in and around Toronto, where a wave of second- and third-generation Canadians are shaping Canada’s new game,” notes an NFB blog about the series. It also notes that, “Canada now has over a dozen players in the NBA [National Basketball Association], more than any other outside country.”
In episodes ranging from 15 to 23 minutes, True North examines “the rise of the Toronto hoop dream through the stories of five young athletes.”
The series – which was three years in the making – “has a multigenerational appeal,” said Sidhoo, who spoke with players, coaches and families. Given the subject matter and format, he said younger viewers enjoy it but that, also, people closer to the age of the parents of the kids featured get something out of it from a parenting point of view.
In the series format, he said, we can tell in-depth stories, “but then that 15-minute episode has to be focused on one kid and their journey. I think that’s an appeal of the series, because they’re highly personal episodes and they’re not trying to do too much at once.”
Sidhoo has worked on various projects, including for Pulse Films, MTV and NBCUniversal, and he has produced and directed content across various VICE platforms; he was the creator and executive producer of Welcome to Fairfax, a 10-part docuseries for Participant Media about a group of young entrepreneurs in Los Angeles.
Born and raised in Vancouver, he’s since lived in California and New York. It was in New York that he earned his master’s in media studies, with a focus on documentary filmmaking, from the New School, in 2013.
“The seeds of the project were really planted at that time,” he said, referring to True North. At the New School, he wanted to do a project “on this old streetball legend named Fly Williams, who I’d read about in a book my dad had given me as a kid called Heaven is a Playground.”
In his search for Williams, Sidhoo ended up at a few different basketball tournaments. At the time, YouTube was just taking off, he said. “What I was seeing at these gyms in New York were these parents marketing their children as the next best basketball phenom. You started to see this cottage industry around youth basketball.”
Fascinated by this, Sidhoo said he kept his finger on the pulse of that world. He noticed that Canadians were having a lot of success getting into the NBA and the question of how basketball became significant in Canada led him to Toronto, “the epicentre of it all.”
“For me,” said Sidhoo of his love of basketball, “growing up in Vancouver, and, especially, having immigrant roots on both sides – my mom is Ashkenazi, they came from Poland and Winnipeg and eventually Vancouver, [while] my dad’s side of the family is from India – I just think that the popular sport in Canada is, obviously, hockey, and winter sports in general have more of a built-in tradition … [but] basketball lends itself to newcomers to a country, so my dad gravitated towards basketball as a kid. For me, growing up, basketball was always in the house, it was always on TV, it was something that I was around and I, naturally, through my dad, was introduced to the sport…. Of course, I like hockey and Wayne Gretzky and all that, but basketball was the thing that was a part of my identity … I always felt comfortable in the niche community of basketball in Vancouver because it was really diverse and it was very multicultural. As someone who had these mixed backgrounds, I felt at home in that world.”
Sidhoo played in various leagues in Vancouver, as well as participating in more than one JCC Maccabi Games. He described as “pivotal,” the Kitsilano Youth Basketball, run by Mel Davis, a former Harlem Globetrotter. Davis’s son, Hubert Davis, directed Hardwood, a documentary (also produced by the NFB) about his relationship with his father and basketball. When Sidhoo saw that film, he said he had two thoughts: “one, that’s amazing, because I know Mel and remember Hubert refereeing the games but then, secondly, it’s projects like that that plant the seed that, hey, maybe I could be a documentary filmmaker, too.”
As a kid, Sidhoo and his brother were encouraged to do what they wanted creatively. “I’d go out back and make videos of myself playing basketball,” he said. “My dad was always showing us films that maybe he shouldn’t have been showing us at that young an age, but explaining why he was showing them. So, basketball was always there and these offbeat films, or films that were aged above my viewing in terms of age appropriateness, that was always a constant, too.”
Growing up, he was also exposed to books, art shows and other culture. Sidhoo recalled his father taking him to one of the first Slam City Jams, a skateboard competition, in the early 1990s, when Sidhoo was 5 or 6 years old. “Back then, skateboarding wasn’t as corporate as it is now, it was still pretty punk,” he said. And, while it was a bit different to be at such an event, “at the same time, it’s normal because I’ve been consuming this kind of content and going to different, what you could call counter-culture, events, with my dad. So, the fascination with subculture was always there, along with basketball.”
True North is Sidhoo’s first project with the NFB. He called the film board with his idea while in Vancouver, and spoke with Shirley Vercruysse, executive producer of NFB BC & Yukon Studio. “She was open-minded,” said Sidhoo and connected him to the paperwork he’d have to submit for the NFB to consider producing the documentary.
“What I think attracted the National Film Board,” he said, “was that basketball is shaping Canadian identity, because we’re exporting so many amazing basketball players to the south that the perception of Canada is not just hockey anymore … basketball is part of the shifting Canadian identity. On a global, macro picture, that resonated with the film board. And then, also tapping into the human, story-driven documentary approach that I wanted to take is what the film board has been doing for a really long time. It spoke to a story that was big, but then also was told through the intimate, personal narratives of these kids. It was a nice combination for them, I think.”
When A.J. Edelman was training in Whistler, he was the guest cantor for Chabad of the North Shore’s Yom Kippur services. (photo from A.J. Edelman)
Chabad of the North Shore community members had a more personal reason to cheer on A.J. Edelman at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. Israel’s only skeleton athlete to have made it to the Games, Edelman was training in Whistler around the High Holidays last year. While there, he participated in community life, stepping in as guest cantor on Yom Kippur.
“Although he [Edelman] could have attended services at a larger synagogue in Vancouver, he was committed to spending Yom Kippur where he could be useful and have an impact,” said Rabbi Mendy Mochkin, spiritual leader of Chabad of the North Shore. “We had a cantor during Rosh Hashanah, but not for Yom Kippur.
“It worked out great. Our community was very excited to learn that a skeleton athlete representing Israel was training locally and was very touched that he chose to join us. They were very moved by his … melodies and heartfelt prayers. We all prayed together with him that he should attain his dream to be an ambassador for Am Yisrael. Our prayers were answered!”
Edelman was born and raised in Boston, in a Modern Orthodox, Zionist family, and he attended an Orthodox Jewish day school. When he was 2, his parents strapped a pair of skates onto his feet. By 22, he was a good hockey player, but not good enough to become a professional.
“I decided that, if I wanted to continue doing sports, it had to be on a high, elite level that could really give a platform to whatever I would choose to do afterward,” Edelman told the Independent. “So, I decided to represent Israel, because it was going to be the only way I was going to do it. As it happened, as I was thinking about this, skeleton appeared on the TV for the team trials for the United States for Sochi. And I thought it looked like a terrific sport – eye-catching.”
For some athletes, they become good at a sport and then look for a country that will let them compete under its flag. In Edelman’s case, he was mainly spurred by the idea of representing Israel. Then, he began searching for a sport.
“It could certainly help me achieve my goal of inspiriting people,” said Edelman. “I didn’t know how difficult it was or how painful it was. I didn’t know how bad, at first, I would be at it. But, I did dive full on into it.”
Edelman had to go from zero to 100, so to speak, in less than four years. While many along the way tried to tell him his goal was unattainable, the naysayers only fueled his resolve to succeed.
“It’s not like swimming or other sports where you have to hit a time relative to previous Olympics times, you have to hit an absolute performance standard of world ranking in that specific year. It’s a quota system,” explained Edelman of skeleton.
Edelman had to become one of the top 30 skeleton athletes in the world in about 48 months. His last year of training was focused – with help from the other athletes on the Israeli skeleton team – on maximizing his point collection at competitions.
“Positioning Israel to be the beneficiary of one of 10 single-sled nations through points I accumulated through specifics results and races was important – and it involved a lot of mathematical calculation,” said Edelman.
Edelman finished 28 out of 30 at the Winter Olympics.
“Making the Games was an insane accomplishment in that we were the only ones who did it without any coaching,” said Edelman. “We had absolute zero coaching for the first two years of my journey…. It took a huge physical toll and mental toll, and a massive financial toll. So, yes, 28 out of 30, I was very pleased.”
Edelman learned the sport from YouTube videos, and fundraised the money he needed to participate in competitions, buy equipment, and cover hotel stays and training facility fees. As far as trying to compete at the next Olympics, Edelman said, while he’d like to do that, it’s just not feasible.
“The financial strain is insane – $40,000 a year,” he said. “And only about 40% of it was covered from over the last four years by sponsors, family, friends – and complete random strangers. Doing it for another cycle would be too much of a financial strain. And I think I’ve accomplished what I was looking to accomplish, and am able to remain involved in Israel’s sports and help the next generation achieve their goals. I now have that platform.”
Although Edelman was at the Games – or maybe because he was at the Games – he said he felt disconnected from the Olympics as a whole.
“I only saw my own thing,” he said. “Otherwise, the experience at the end, or during the competition, of representing Israel, it was an honour unparalleled to anything in my life. There were a few moments I felt like I could cherish forever – the thoughts and feeling that this is what it’s like to represent a country and how it feels to be that individual. It was absolutely terrific.”
Edelman said he is not sure about what might come next for him, but that he is aiming big. For now, he is focused on transitioning from being a full-time athlete back into normal life. But life will never be the same for him, now that he has proven his potential to himself.
“If you apply yourself so completely and fully, and you just dedicate yourself the most you can, a lot can be accomplished,” he said. “But, not everything … I am never going to be able to make the NBA.
“I don’t usually tell people anything is possible. I tell them what I learned in the streets – that no one can tell you what you can’t do, and that you shouldn’t let others’ opinions dictate what you can do.”
As far as his experience with the Jewish community while training in Whistler, Edelman said, “My Jewish heritage is everything to me. It’s the entire reason why I did this. This journey was terribly difficult – it was the Jewish heritage aspect of it that kept me going.
“I cannot tell you how many times I wanted to give up, quit or just take days off,” he admitted. “But, then I’d remember I was representing the entire Jewish and Israeli community. Every night before I went to bed, I’d thank God for allowing me to be what’s called a Kiddush Hashem [sanctifying God’s name by living by example, in a holy way]. This means being a positive role model for my community and that means everything to me.”
Edelman connects with Jewish communities wherever he goes, seeing himself as an ambassador of the Jewish state. So, for him, joining the North Shore Jewish community when he was training in Whistler was a foregone conclusion.
The 2019 World Championship will be held in Whistler and, although Edelman has retired from athletic life, he wants to attend.
“When I tried out,” recalled Edelman of his first skeleton trial, “the Israel scouting report said that if I could just get down the track, that would be it … that I wouldn’t make it to the Games no matter how hard I tried. I think everybody can have that kind of moment … when they think they can’t do something or are told they can’t do something – but they should absolutely try and expect success.”
This year’s Winter Olympics, currently underway in Pyeongchang, South Korea, feature Israel’s largest-ever representation, with 10 athletes competing – in figure skating, skeleton and alpine ski racing. In the alpine skiing events, there is only one Israeli competitor – Itamar Biran – and the Independent spoke with him prior to the Games.
Born in London, England, Biran, 19, lives in Verbier, Switzerland, but grew up in Israel. As Israel’s second-ever Olympic skier, he follows in the footsteps of Mykhaylo Renzhyn, who competed for Israel in the 2006 and 2010 Winter Games. Renzhyn was Israel’s highest-ranked skier in those years, and made his Olympic debut at 27. Virgile Vandeput was 19 when he qualified in 2014, but wasn’t able to compete due to an injury sustained weeks before the Games. Though Biran is not the first Israeli skier, he has posted better results than all of his predecessors.
Biran said the 2018 Games are different than any other past Winter Olympics for Israel.
“The Israeli Olympic Committee is supporting us a lot more, and they are starting to recognize our winter sports are as important as summer,” he said in a phone interview from France, before heading to Pyeongchang. He went on to point out how the increase in support and funding has allowed more Israeli athletes to get the top of their respective sports. For example, Israel now has figure skaters in the world’s top 10 and Biran is in the top 15 for his age.
“In Israel, the only thing people know about skiing is Club Med in Europe,” said Biran, not excluding himself. It wasn’t until age 4 that his father, Doron Biran, took him from Israel to France, where he learned to ski and instantly fell in love with the sport.
After a number of years going to Club Med in France, Biran’s dad bought a house in Verbier in 2006. It was there where Biran really started to excel at the sport. At first, he and his father would travel to Switzerland over school holidays. Soon, the holidays turned into a full season living in Switzerland, and Biran started to race.
European ski racers usually begin racing at 8 years old, but Biran started late, at 12. As a dual citizen of Israel and the United Kingdom, he had the option of racing for Britain. He joined the British Ski Academy at 13, and was with them for a year, splitting his time between London and Verbier. He chose to race for Israel because he wanted to reconnect with where he had spent most of his childhood, and with his family in Tel Aviv.
Not only is Biran the best Israeli ski racer, he would also be one of the highest ranked British technical skiers if he had continued in their program. However, after he chose to represent Israel, at age 14, he dropped out of the British Ski Academy and joined a private training group of athletes from small nations. The group S-Team is based in Gerardmer, France, and includes athletes from Spain, as well as other nations that don’t have large alpine programs.
The 2018 Winter Olympics will not be Biran’s first test against the best. He made his debut in the top level in 2015 at the FIS (Fédération Internationale de Ski) Alpine World Championships in Beaver Creek, Colo., where he was the youngest competitor out of all male events, finishing 62nd in the Giant Slalom (GS). He competed at that level in the GS again in 2017 at St. Moritz, Switzerland.
Biran also represented Israel at the Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway, in 2016, where he finished 38th in the Super-G. The Super-G is the second-fastest skiing event, behind the downhill, and is one of the two speed events. It is not an event he will be competing in at Pyeongchang, since he has focused on the more technical disciplines in slalom and GS since the Lillehammer event.
“You have to treat the Olympics as just another race,” said Biran, for whom rubbing shoulders with the best is nothing new. “I have no idols because I want to be their rival,” he explained about the racers on the FIS Alpine World Cup series.
In the weeks leading up to the Games in Pyeongchang, Biran competed in the World Junior Championships in Davos, Switzerland, and made his Europa Cup debut in Chamonix, France.
The young Israeli is among the first generation of athletes to have the opportunity to both go to school as well as continue racing on a European or World Cup level. Germany’s David Ketterer currently attends the University of Colorado and races for their college team, and Biran has similar plans – he has applied to Bocconi University in Milan, Italy, and Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, two schools that will accommodate his high level of sport. He is not in school at the moment, having graduated high school last year, but will begin his post-secondary education in the fall.
In Pyeongchang, Biran is set to compete in the GS on Feb. 17 at 5:15 p.m. Pacific time, as well as the slalom on Feb. 21, with the same start time. For the full Winter Olympics schedule, visit pyeongchang2018.com.
Ben Steiner is a Grade 11 student at St. George’s school. He is a freelance journalist as well as being a teaching assistant at Temple Sholom Religious School. Check out more of Steiner’s coverage at his website, vancitysport.com.
Jeff Buller at the induction ceremony for his father, the late Hy Buller, into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in Netanya, Israel. (photo by Diane Buller)
These remarks were delivered on July 4 as part of the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the Wingate Institute, in Netanya, Israel, for my late uncle, Hy Buller, who played for the New York Rangers hockey team from 1950 to 1954.
Ihave a photo hanging in my office of a curious little boy playing outdoors – a photo of me at 3 years old. In this photo, I’m proudly wearing a New York Rangers cardigan sweater, a loving gift from my Uncle Hy.
My Uncle Hy died in 1968, when I was still a teenager and, for much of my youth, he and his family lived in Cleveland, far from my hometown of Vancouver. I really got to know him best while penning an article about him for The Scribe, the journal of the Jewish Museum and Archives of British Columbia. This article, aptly titled “A mensch on defence,” was published in 2002.
In writing “A mensch on defence,” I reconnected with Hy’s three sons, Bob, Bruce and Jeff, who provided valuable information about their father. My cousins also put me in touch with legendary hockey players who had shared the ice with Hy: “Mr. Hockey” Gordie Howe, “Terrible” Ted Lindsay and goalie Johnny Bower. Each had warm memories of Hy and spoke highly of his abilities.
Winters in Saskatoon were devoted to hockey. Like many boys his age, Hy spent most of his time outside of school hours vying to be king of the ice on his uncle’s vacant lot, flooded and frozen each year.
A natural athlete, Hy quickly rose up the ranks and caught the eye of local coaches and scouts. When it was too warm for hockey, Hy never stopped moving, and was active year-round in football, baseball, basketball, golf, swimming and track and field, earning many awards.
In the 1940s and 1950s, there were only six teams in the National Hockey League. Most of the players on these teams came from the Canadian Prairies, with the majority coming from the small towns of Saskatchewan. From the time they were old enough to hold a hockey stick, youngsters in these hinterlands developed a fierce love for the game and a burning desire to be one of the 120 favoured players that made up the six NHL teams.
After an illustrious eight-year stint in the American Hockey League, Hy was traded to the New York Rangers at the close of the 1950-51 season, where he played with distinction until retirement in 1954.
A newspaper commented that, in street clothes, Hy Buller, with his mild, scholarly appearance, glasses and receding hairline, looked like someone who spent a lot of time in a library and knew from which end to read a book. But, once on ice with a hockey stick in his hand, something happened to Hy – a kind of Clark Kent into Superman transformation in which he changed from a studious-appearing bookworm to a formidable, hard-checking defenceman who seemed to be everywhere at once. He was admired not only for his solid plays but also for his good sportsmanship.
Hy’s type of playing in many respects resembled the kind of hockey played in Europe, depending more on clever stick-handling and skating than on the rough-and-tumble brand played in North America. His style and ability earned him the admiration of his fellow players.
I’m honoured to be accepting this award on behalf of my uncle and my family, 23 of whom have traveled from far and wide to share in this special moment. It’s a tribute to how well loved and respected he was that so many have journeyed to be here. I’d specifically like to note Hy’s sons Jeff and Bob, who have come with their wives, Diane and Sandie, and children.
On behalf of the family, I’m pleased to express our gratitude to the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame for their induction of Hy Buller. My sincerest thanks.