The International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame recently inducted 35 new members. New inductees included Israeli gymnast Linoy Ashram, who won a Gold medal in gymnastics at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, and professional basketball star Miki Berkovich. Meanwhile, 300 Jewish American athletes held their bar and bat mitzvah ceremonies while competing in the international Maccabiah 2022 games this week in Israel.
Located in Netanya, Israel, the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame (Yad Le’ish Hasport Hayehudi in Hebrew) was formally inaugurated on July 7, 1981. Its predecessor, the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, was founded in the United States in May 1979. The original Hall of Fame included only American honorees. The International Hall of Fame honors athletes and sportsmen and sportswomen throughout the world.
The purpose of the IJSHOF is to honor Jewish men and women, worldwide, who have accomplished extraordinary achievements in sports and to honor those who have made significant contributions to society through sports.
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Judd Margolis, chairman of the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame said “The Jewish Sports Hall of Fame is important to Jews in Israel and worldwide and constitutes for all of us a source of immense pride. We are inducting some of the best world record holders, Olympic gold medalists, and champions, who are first and foremost human beings.”
According to the Jerusalem Post, former Israeli professional basketball player Miki Berkovich said of his induction, “this is a very emotional day for me. In the past, I visited the Wingate Institute often when training with the various squads as a member of the Israeli National Team. The institute served as a springboard for me from starting as an amateur to becoming a professional basketball player.”
“Receiving the exciting announcement of my induction into the Jewish Hall of Fame – is a supreme feeling. To be mentioned on the same level with larger-than-life athletes like Red Auerbach, Mark Spitz, and many others brings me joy and happiness that you are admired and appreciated not only here in Israel,” Berkovich added.
As for all of those bar and bat mitzvah ceremonies for Maccabiah athletes, no, they were not 12 nd 13 year old boys and girls. They were basically adults who never had the opportunity for an official bar/bat mitzvah ceremony.
According to Jewish law Bar and Bat Mitzvah – 13 for boys and 12 for girls – is basically the legal age of consent at which a person is obligated to obey all of the Mitzvot – commandments in the Tora – like fasting on Yom Kippur and keeping Shabbat. But no ceremony is required. It happens automatically.
However, in modern times, a ceremony has become the pivotal coming of age moment for most Jews living outside of Israel. As such, when a Jew who never had any Jewish tradition nor education as a child becomes more committed to his or her Jewish identity as an adult, they choose to have a ceremony as a way to acknowledge their new commitment to the Jewish people.
Josh Fountain, a native of the Atlanta Georgia area in the US, spoke with the Forward about his bar mitzvah in Israel. The 23 year old swimmer is part of the 1,300 strong American delegation to the Maccabiah games, the largest out of more than 10,000 competing athletes from around the world.
“Building Jewish identity is paramount to what we do,” he said. And Fountain was proud to have the ceremony together with so many of his fellow athletes adding, “He called it “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to embrace who I am.”