Sports

Home
In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review

Boxer has a will to win, and to worship

By Kevin Baxter




http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | (MCT) NEW YORK It's a little after noon when Yuri Foreman steps through the door of Gleason's Gym, located above a furniture store in a former waterfront warehouse beneath the heel of the Manhattan Bridge.

If prizefighting had a Mecca, this would be it. The oldest boxing gym in the U.S., Gleason's has been a home to 132 world champions, including Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Roberto Duran and Jake LaMotta, the "Raging Bull."

Foreman, the unbeaten "Lion of Zion," became the latest to join the list after twice knocking down heavily favored Daniel Santos to win the World Boxing Association junior middleweight title last November in Las Vegas. That made him the first Israeli fighter to win a world title and earned him one of the championship banners that cover the walls of the dingy gym.

Yet after climbing to the top of a sport he has long attacked with zeal, Foreman finds that his accomplishment has to share the spotlight with his other pursuit. The boxer, you see, is studying to be a rabbi, spending each morning in the middle of the Torah learning how to interpret the will of G0d, and each afternoon in the middle of a gym learning how to break the will of his next opponent.

"Never in my wildest dreams would I ever believe that I would be putting on a card which would feature a future rabbi," says Foreman's promoter, Bob Arum. "This is the most unique thing that's come along."

The two worlds, boxing and religion, do not necessarily contradict one another, Jewish scholars say. After all, many of the greatest Jewish leaders were warriors, so they say it's not hypocritical to pound somebody's flesh while also trying to redeem their soul.

"Judaism is very much stressed in the here and the now. That is, it's a celebration of life, not withdrawal," says Rabbi DovBer Pinson, Foreman's rabbinical instructor. "The stereotype of Jews in America is Woody Allen. I think that's a very good stereotype to break."

Los Angeles Rabbi Yonah Bookstein, who has invited the boxer to speak at the Jewlicious cultural festival in Long Beach this weekend said Foreman "has been able to keep one foot firmly planted in his Jewishness and the other foot planted in the world that he loves, boxing. Young people need positive role models and Yuri's a great role model. His story is very compelling."

It's a story that includes an Israeli national title won while training in an Arab gym, the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, , a death threat from a masked gunman, and a marriage to a Hungarian model.

Those are just the highlights.

The 29-year-old Foreman never set out to be a Jewish icon. In fact, he never set out to be Jewish, having grown up in a secular family in Belarus and Israel before finding religion—and a pro boxing career — in Brooklyn.

"Becoming a Jew," he says with a grin, "was a gradual process."

The journey began on the banks of the Sozh River in Gomel, the second-largest city in the former Soviet republic of Belarus and a place that was once home to a vibrant Jewish community. That community was nearly wiped out twice, first during the pogroms of czarist Russia at the start of the 20th century and four decades later by the Nazis.

By the time Foreman was born in 1980, his family had become so secular that his parents thought their ceremonial kiddush cups, passed down from their ancestors, were fancy shot glasses for drinking vodka. "We were so far away from Judaism we didn't know to hide it," Foreman says.

When Foreman was 5, an explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power station about 100 miles to the southwest covered Gomel in a cloud of radiation, forcing the family to evacuate to Estonia. They returned months later, but Foreman's father rarely stayed in Gomel for long, traveling to buy shoes and other goods that he and Yuri would sell on the black market.

A couple of years later, after Foreman was picked on by bullies at a swimming pool, his mother marched him to a boxing gym and told the trainer what had happened. "The trainer promised her it would never happen again. And he kept his promise," Foreman recalls.

But if Foreman learned to fight in Belarus, he learned to box in Haifa, the Israeli port city where his family moved just months before the disintegration of the Soviet Union. He trained there with Michael Kozlowski, a former Soviet national team coach.

Boxing receives such feeble support in Israel, Foreman had to train in the courtyard of an elementary school or on the balcony of Kozlowski's apartment, where a punching bag hung. To get in a ring and spar, Foreman and his training partners had to drive to a distant Arab neighborhood gym where they knew they weren't welcome.

"You are a Russian Jew and they know that. They were trying to hurt you," Foreman says of the fighters training there. But "after the workouts we'd shake hands. And then slowly we had friends."

He became Israel's most decorated boxer, a three-time national amateur champion. He also made friends in the gym and was invited to celebrate Muslim holidays in Arab homes, where he was always seated at the head of the table. When Foreman won his world title, he received almost as many calls and e-mails of congratulations from the West Bank as he did from the rest of Israel.

"Boxing," says Foreman, who fights with a Star of David on his trunks, "transcends the differences between nations. Like the Arab and Jewish nations."

Kozlowski moved to New York and almost immediately set up shop at Gleason's. Foreman soon joined him there and turned pro in 2002, debuting on a series of small cards staged in a hotel and an Italian restaurant. After his fourth win, a bloody decision over a journeyman, Foreman decided that Kozlowski's style, which worked well at the tactical, elegant amateur level, wouldn't work in brawling professional fights, where the bouts were longer and the combination punching far more furious. So Foreman suggested they add another trainer to teach him the nuances of the pro game.

"He took it as an offense," Foreman says. "We split. Very badly."

Within days a beefy Russian man knocked on Foreman's door and handed him a package. Inside was a bullet and a message warning the fighter that if he didn't return to Kozlowski his name would be in the news, Foreman says. The FBI investigated the threat but no charges were filed.

Kozlowski still trains boxers at Gleason's, where the door of his locker is covered with a laminated flier that reads "Coach of WBA World Champion Yuri Foreman." But the two haven't spoken in nearly eight years.

Before leaving Israel, Foreman says, he visited the Western Wall in Jerusalem, where he scribbled his petitions on a piece of paper and slipped it into a crevice.

"I wrote that I want to be world champion," he said. "One of the (other) things I wrote is to have a wife who's a model."

Both prayers were answered in Brooklyn, where he met and married Leyla Leidecker, a former fashion model turned documentary filmmaker who also had a brief boxing career.

"Without Leyla I don't know where I'd be today," says Foreman, sweat dripping after a spirited session of shadow boxing and rope-jumping at Gleason's. He skips workouts only for the Sabbath. "I would definitely not be a world champion."

Nor would he be Jewish. It was Leidecker, who also grew up secular under communist rule in Hungary, who encouraged Foreman to add a spiritual dimension to his life.

"I was always a spiritual person looking for a system of beliefs," says Leidecker, a former Metro New York boxing champion who sparred with Hilary Swank while the actress was preparing for her role in "Million Dollar Baby". "I tried a few things and Judaism was the most pleasing."

She and Foreman, who met at Gleason's, were soon attending religious classes together. When one rabbi likened the struggles of daily life to two boxers in a ring, they were hooked.

Foreman decided on his own to become a rabbi, a goal Pinson, his rabbinical instructor, says he should reach in the next two years. Before then, he'll have to defend his boxing title this June in New York against former welterweight champ Miguel Cotto. The Puerto Rican endured savage beatings in three of his last four fights but that isn't likely to happen against Foreman, who has just eight knockouts in 28 fights — and just one since 2004.

"Listen, I'm not a big expert on boxing. I don't really know boxing at all," Pinson says. But "the way Yuri boxes, no one seems to get hurt.

"A person like Yuri, that's a beautiful thing. He's a world champion and he has a high profile," Pinson says. "He's a good example of how to live as a Jew."

Interested in a private Judaic studies instructor — for free? Let us know by clicking here.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes inspirational material. Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

We want your comments! Please let us know what you think by clicking here.





© 2010, Los Angeles Times Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.