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.
Since leaving my 5th floor walkup apartment building and graduating to a home with enough space for a bicycle, I have been a woman obsessed.Riding my bike is faster, cleaner, and way more fun than riding the subway or the bus.Apparently, I am not the first Jewish woman in Boston to feel this way.
A woman riding a bicycle in full Victorian dress doesn't freely associate with being Jewish ...except in the case of Annie Cohen Kopchovsky (who adopted the decidedly less ethnic name of "Annie Londonderry"). In courageous, chutzpah-like ways, Annie -- a Jewish immigrant living in Boston in June 1894 -- shattered the social conventions of her time.
One of the recurring items on my ever-evolving list of “things to do in my life,” is to hike the Appalachian Trail. Whether or not I’ll actually do that remains in question, but if I could choose an ideal companion to join me on such a journey, I’d most likely choose a Jewess named Arlene Blum.
Today is the Boston Marathon, the oldest annual 26-miler; the "granddaddy" of road races. In just a few hours, hundreds of bodies will whiz through the city, pounding the pavement right outside my window. Without feeling side cramps, pulled hamstrings, or the throbbing of achy joints, the marathon is, from a spectator's vantage point (and perhaps from an ecstatically adrenaline-jacked runner's standpoint, too), a rather exhilarating, life-affirming, freeing experience. And yet, the opportunity to feel such freedom and exhilaration wasn't always afforded to everyone.
As a former tennis player and tennis team captain (and more importantly, as a feminist), I was happy to learn that Wimbledon, the oldest and perhaps most prestigious event in the sport of tennis, has finally decided to award equal prize-money to men and women. Ending an unequal pay policy that dates back 123 years, this decision is certainly something to celebrate, though it seems like a no-brainer. It’s high time that male and female athletes get equal pay, right?
Kudos goes to Kelly Kulick, who is the first woman to qualify for the Professional Bowlers Association Tour. She's a 29-year old from Union, N.J. who works in her father's auto-body shop. According to the New York Times article about Kulick, published on June 15, some men in the PBA are upset at the idea of a woman playing on what has traditionally been a men's sport and a men's tour.