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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

‘Kid Kosher’ Gets A Title Shot

By Steve Lipman

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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Bushkill, Pa. — Up a flight of stairs in a Poconos resort, in a dimly lit, empty boxing ring, the second-ranked junior welterweight in the world — a native of Odessa by way of Brooklyn — is channeling a heavyweight from Louisville who made history with his fists and his mouth.

"I'm fast, I'm bad, I'm pretty," Dmitriy Salita whispers into the air, to no one in particular, punching and shuffling, bobbing and weaving against an imagined opponent. His trainers, setting up the afternoon's training session, aren't paying attention to the shtick.

They've probably heard it before.

The words, of course, are Muhammad Ali's, the legendary heavyweight champion who combined endearing brashness and street-smart literacy with lightning-fast jabs.

The attitude, also, is Ali's. And the adroit footwork.

Consider Salita Ali 2.0: Float like a butterfly, sting like a Maccabee.

"I love Ali," Salita says. "Not only was he a great fighter, but he was a great social figure for a lot of people."

A devout Muslim and war resister, Ali was a symbol. Which has resonance for Salita, a devout Jew.

An émigré from Ukraine who adopted Orthodox Judaism when his mother was dying of cancer a decade ago, Salita first stepped into a boxing gym at 13, found a calling and a career, and vowed that one day he would wear a world champion belt.

At 26, his day to claim the belt — but not the belt he has long set his sights on — has arrived.

With an undefeated professional record of 28-0-1, he steps into the famed Madison Square Garden ring on Nov. 8 against American Derrick Campos for the vacant International Boxing Federation junior welterweight intercontinental championship.

Salita had been set to meet fellow Ukrainian Andrea Kotelnik, the reigning World Boxing Association junior welterweight champion, until Kotelnik backed out, first citing an injury, then an unsatisfactory contract with Salita's managers.

"It's very frustrating," Salita says. "It is obvious to me that he doesn't want to fight me," he wrote in an open letter that appeared online.

"This is still my biggest fight," for a world title one step down from the WBA, Salita says. "Sooner or later — hopefully sooner," he plans to wear the WBA belt. If he wins it, Salita will become the first Jewish champion boxer since, depending on how you score these things, light heavyweight Mike Rossman in the late 1970s or welterweight Barney Ross in the late 1930s. And he'll be, as far as any boxing expert knows, the first-ever frum world champion pugilist.

"I want to make history," Salita says.

"He's Joseph Lieberman with gloves on," says Jeffrey Gurock, professor of American Jewish history at Yeshiva University and author of "Judaism's Encounter with American Sports" (Indiana University Press, 2005). The reference is to the Democratic-turned-Independent senator from Connecticut, who has made a successful career in national politics as an observant Jew, another cultural icon for observant Jews in once-out-of-reach professions.

Since winning a New York Golden Gloves amateur championship in 2001 before turning pro, Salita has faced and beat increasingly higher-ranked boxers and moved up his weight class rankings, until he earned the upcoming title shot in the sport's Midtown Mecca. "It speaks well for this country in terms of tolerance," Gurock says of Salita's success, a reference to the fact that he fights under terms of a contract that exclude bouts on Sabbath or Jewish holidays. "It's something that Orthodox Jews can be proud of."


With pre-fight press conferences in kosher restaurants, with a coterie of Orthodox fans, with accompaniments into the ring by Orthodox rap superstar Matisyahu, Salita has achieved a recognition that earned a White House invitation for the First Family's Chanukah celebration in 2004.

"This is my American dream," Salita says. "I always believed that this moment would come."

Soft-spoken, deferential, addressing his elders as "mister," he punches holes in the stereotype of a belligerent boxer.

"He's a nice, sweet kid," says Rabbi Zalman Liberov, his chasidic mentor. "He's not an aggressive person. No one would ever detect that he's a boxer if he didn't wear the boxing clothes."

"A lot of people have a chip on their shoulder," Salita says, relaxing in his room at the Fernwood Hotel & Resort after a three-hour workout. "I'm not angry at all."

Salita — "My friends call me 'Dima,'" diminutive for Dmitriy — is clean-shaven and baby-faced. As an Orthodox Jew, he keeps his head covered outside the ring, switching between yarmulke and baseball cap.

At 5-foot-9, he weighs a buff 155 pounds, 15 of which he must shed in the weeks before the title fight to get down to the junior welterweight 140.

At his Fernwood training camp, he retreats before big bouts for two months of daily — only off for Shabbat — trainer-supervised sessions in the ring and miles of daybreak jogs along rolling roads.

A boxer's life, he says, is not glamorous. "It's very lonely" in the period between fights, long stretches away from friends and the Jewish community, he says. "When it's time for the fight, it's the loneliest place in the world."

Tonight, Salita is chef. He prepares a nourishing dinner for himself and his trainers, some tasty pasta with tomato sauce. His culinary skills, he says, are self-taught.

What's better, his cooking or his boxing? Boxing wins, easily. "I don't practice my cooking."


After dinner, he clears the table and repeats his life's story, which has become the stuff of profiles in the nation's press and of a 2006 documentary, "Orthodox Stance."

His parents brought him and his brother, Michael nee Mikhail/Misha, to the U.S. to escape anti-Semitism and impending poverty in newly independent Ukraine. Here, his college-educated folks were unemployed for several years. "We were poor," Salita says. Welfare-poor. The public school kids made fun of Salita's accent and immigrant-style clothes. He fought back.

Then, Michael took his younger brother to the Starrett City Boxing Club in a working-class neighborhood of Brooklyn between Brownsville and Jamaica Bay.

There, Salita found himself the only white face in a sea of black and Hispanic contenders. "He was the palest person in the gym," says Jason Hutt, producer-director of "Orthodox Stance," who spent three years trailing and interviewing Salita. (The documentary [www.orthodoxstance.com] will be shown Monday, Nov. 3 at 8 p.m. on the MSG Network, and the DVD will be released the next day.)

There, Salita found himself. "I fell in love with [the sport] the first day. "It was a Friday," Salita says. "Come back on Monday," said Jimmy O'Pharrow, the African-American owner of the gym who became the teen's mentor. Salita came back. "In the beginning, I took a lot of whuppins," he says, the echo of Ali returning. He kept coming back.

Soon, he started to administer the whuppins. "You're going to be a world champion," O'Pharrow told him.

Alexander and Lyudmilla didn't mind Salita's occasional-black-eye-inducing extracurricular activity. "My parents just saw it as [a regular] after-school activity ... 'as long as you do well in school,'" he says. "They didn't say 'don't go.'"

A minority in an athletic setting of minority group members, Salita shared their penurious background, their hours-in-the-gym work ethic, their fire-in-the-belly motivation. "I could relate to everyone in the gym."

"He felt connected to people who came from other backgrounds," Hutt says. "A boxing gym is one of the most democratic places you can find. If you work hard and hold your own you will be accepted. He was accepted as a boxer."

Salita, Hutt says, "is still that 9-year-old immigrant" who arrived here with no money, no English, no contacts. "That doesn't go away. He still has that same hunger."

Pulling himself up from poverty, Salita is following in the footsteps of champion Jewish boxers of a century ago.

Most, like Salita, were poor. "There were many outstanding Jewish champions and contenders, and thousands of Jewish boxers in the twenties, thirties and even forties," Alan Bodner writes in "When Boxing was a Jewish Sport" (Praeger Publishers, 1997).

"Boxing was attractive to poor second-generation American Jews who recognized that entry into the sport was dependent on ability alone."

Most, like Salita — nickname: "Kid Kosher" — wore their ethnic identity proudly. "Most of them," Bodner writes, "wore Stars of David on their bathrobes and trunks until religious symbols were banned in the 1940s."

Most, unlike Salita, came from traditional Jewish homes but shed religious observance as part of the Americanization process. Salita, whose family — typical residents of the atheistic former Soviet Union — did not practice Judaism, took the opposite spiritual path.

When Mrs. Salita was diagnosed with cancer, Dmitriy spent long hours in her hospital room and was introduced to Orthodox Judaism by his mother's roommate. A spark was lit. "I always believed in G-d," he says. He started to learn about Orthodox Judaism, and kept going to the gym.

The time at Starrett City gym helped take Salita's mind off his mother's deteriorating health, and her death in 1999. "Boxing helped me block out the pain," he says in the documentary. "It's Divine Providence that I'm involved in this. I believe that to a certain extent I found G-d through boxing."

"Boxing," says Hutt, "gave him a sense of purpose that was only intensified after the death of his mother. It gave him something to bury himself in."


Salita channels Barney Ross, born Dov-Ber Rasofsky in New York City to immigrant parents, who won championships in the 1930s as a lightweight, junior welterweight and welterweight. Ross' father, a rabbi, was fatally shot, dying in his son's arms, in a robbery when Ross was 14. Salita ranks Ross' autobiography, "No Man Stands Alone," as his favorite book. "I relate to the pain he had to deal with," he says.

His mother is still a presence in his life — he brings a family photo, which includes her, to his hotel rooms on the road — but his voice does not crack when he talks about her. Salita stays focused, always in control.

As polite as he is in person, he's that aggressive in the ring, a well-conditioned punching machine. In trunks, Salita becomes a different personality. Bucher or butcher? Humble yeshiva student or knockout artist?

Salita — like fellow émigré Yuri Foreman, a rising light middleweight/rabbinical student — hears the question all the time. How can a religious Jew, a prayers-three-times-a-day, tzitzit-wearing baal teshuvah, make his living by hitting other people?

"People say a lot of things without understanding the situation," he says. "If people ask me good-naturedly, it doesn't bother me."

He tells the questioners, "I don't see a contradiction within myself. My Judaism and my boxing grew together. I got exposed to Orthodox Judaism after I had been boxing" for several years. "I see 100 percent balance. I became more religious through boxing," Salita says. In the ring, it's just him and G-d.

Salita calls himself "a thinking, technical boxer." In other words, not a bruiser. He's a linguist, picking up English as a teen, teaching himself Spanish in recent years for the sake of his largely Hispanic crowds.

A budding entrepreneur who is studying business parttime at Touro College and plans to quit boxing at 30 for a career in business, Salita has designed a Web site

(www.dsalita.com) that offers media clippings, a synopsis of his past fights, and a line of Dmitriy Salita T-shirts and autographed gloves.

Now he channels Oscar De La Hoya, the 35-year-old, multimillionaire Mexican American boxer/promoter/singer/publisher/clothing designer.

De La Hoya and Ali are Salita's athletic role models.

"Oscar was and is very smart to make the best career choices in terms of boxing, in terms of business," Salita says.

A few years ago, he was offered a small role in an HBO boxing movie, as a fighter who loses a match against the film's protagonist. He said no. "It was tempting," he said, "but if I did that, a lot of people who never saw me fight would see me lose."

Which isn't in Salita's vocabulary. He talks about what will happen when he wins the title fight, about the kiddush he'll throw in shul. "After the fight, G-d willing, it will guarantee a certain level of financial security."

When Ali won, he would stand over his floored opponents, taunting them. "I don't try to be like anyone [else]," Salita says.

When he becomes the top-ranked junior welterweight, he says, he will offer a quiet prayer of thanks. "I will go back to my corner and hug my trainer."

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Steve Lipman is a staff writer for the New York Jewish Week.

© 2008, NY Jewish Week