Anya Davidovich, a sixteen-year old girl born in the USA, will be skating for Israel in the Winter Olympics. Her parents are Israeli, and most of her family lives in Israel. She is part of the first-ever pairs team to compete for Israel in the Olympics and the only female member of Team Israel. Anya will be carrying the flag for the Israeli delegation.
Paula Sinclair, JWA Director of Programs & Partnerships, interviewed Anya and her mother as they prepared for their trip to Sochi.
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Two years ago we cheered on swimmer Dara Torres, fencer Sada Jacobson, marathoner Deena Kastor, and pole Vaulter Jillian Schwartz at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. This year, only one Jewish American woman is competing in the Vancouver Olympic games, and in one of the more interesting events. Laura Spector made her Olympic debut in Vancouver, competing in the women's biathlon, a combination of cross-country skiing and rifle shooting.
Last week the Jewish Chronicle asked us to nominate the most important Jewish person in sports over the last decade. They suggested Israeli footballer Yossi Benayoun, European judo champion Arik Ze’evi, tennis star Andy Ram, and American swimmer Jason Lezak. Tablet magazine picked up on the story, and added Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis to the list. Excuse me, but where are the Jewish women athletes? Have they been invisible for the past ten years? Considering the Associated Press' recent nomination of two horses for "Female Athlete of the Year," maybe so.
Next week is the release of Berlin 36 in German cinemas. Berlin 36 is a film about Gretel Bergmann, the talented German high jumper denied a spot on the 1936 Olympic team because she was Jewish. Rather than face the embarassment of a Jew winning a gold medal for Germany, the Third Reich selected gentile Dora Ratjen to compete in Bergmann's place. Two years later, a doctor revealed that "Dora" was actually a man.
The first Olympics I remember well were the 1988 Summer Games, held in Seoul. We were sitting shiva for my grandfather on Long Island. I remember my sister and I lying on our grandparents' bed (my grandmother always had pink satin sheets) and being completely mesmerized by the tiny female gymnasts as they tumbled across the floor. To my knowledge, none of those women were Jewish (Kerri Strug made her debut in 1992, and the Israeli gymnasts who competed in 1988 likely did not make it to American television), but American Jewish women have made a strong impact on the Olympic Games over the past 100-plus years.