Issues 18:05 Jewish Athletes

A Year for Jewish Athletes

It’s been quite a year for Jewish athletes.

In October 2009, Omri Casspi of the Sacramento Kings became the first Israeli-born basketballer to play in the NBA. Weeks later, Orthodox rabbinical student Yuri Foreman won a world boxing championship, the first Israeli to do so. Then in March, tennis player Shahar Pe’er became the first Israeli woman to compete in a professional sporting event in the United Arab Emirates, which had denied her a visa a year earlier. Though unseeded, Pe’er advanced to the semi-finals, where she fell to eventual champion Venus Williams.

If Jewish athletes seem rare, what about those who believe in Jesus? In this edition we profile three—a major league baseball player, an Olympic cyclist, and an aspiring basketball player—with religious backgrounds as diverse as their chosen sports. But their common faith has helped them overcome some formidable obstacles, both athletic and personal.

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David Newhan: Nothing to Hide
Author: Matt Sieger

Maybe it wasn’t quite Lou Gehrig replacing Wally Pipp, but when David Newhan got a chance to play for the Baltimore Orioles in the summer of 2004, he made the most of it. The left-handed swinging sparkplug belted a 435-foot pinch-hit home run in his first at bat for Baltimore on June 18. Previously a […]

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Michael Blatchford: Nothing to Lose
Author: Matt Sieger

How does a skinny kid with asthma end up competing against brawny sprint cyclers in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing? Michael Blatchford, 24, grew up in southern California in Cypress, a suburb near Disneyland. Like any other kid, he rode his bike around town. But it held no fascination for him until age thirteen, […]

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Ami Ortiz: No Hate
Author: Matt Sieger

Fifteen-year-old Ami Ortiz, who lives with his family in Ariel, Israel, stayed home from school on Purim, March 20, 2008. He was delighted to discover in the stairwell a gift basket with the message Happy Holidays.” But when he opened the package, it exploded in his face, filling his body with shrapnel, burning him all […]

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Yom Kippur and the Jewish Athlete
Author: Matt Sieger

We are proud when a Jewish athlete succeeds, but a few have gained even more respect for refusing to play ball on the holiest day of the Jewish calendar. Baseball Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg recalled his 1934 decision: Both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur came in September…¬†and since we were in the thick of […]

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