Subscribe to our Newsletter


click to dowload our latest edition

News

Be proudly Jewish, AJ tells sportsmen

Published

on

JACK MILNER

Edelman is hoping to qualify for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. He was born in Boston in the US, grew up on the East Coast and attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. But a gap year which he spent studying at Yeshivat Lev Hatorah in Ramat Beit Shemesh, inspired him after graduating in 2013, to join the Israel Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation.

Skeleton is a fast winter sliding sport in which a person rides a small sled down a frozen track while lying face down during which the rider experiences forces up to 5Gs and reaches speeds of more than 130km per hour. The bony appearance of the sled gave the sport its name. It was added to the Olympic programme for the 2002 Winter Olympics. 

 

Skeleton is a fast winter sliding sport in which a person rides a small sled down a frozen track while lying face down during which the rider experiences forces up to 5Gs and reaches speeds of more than 130km per hour. The bony appearance of the sled gave the sport its name. It was added to the Olympic programme for the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Last year Edelman had four successful races that landed him 91st in world rankings and qualified him for a spot in the World Championships in Austria. Now he has plans to enter 12 to 14 more races in order to represent Israel in 2018. 

Edelman calls himself “a self-identifying Orthodox Jew”. He is shomrei Shabbat and is happy to put on tefillin prior to a competition, as he fully embraces his Judaism. But, in a recent interview with Breaking Israel News, Edelman says his primary goal isn’t to compete, but rather to inspire other Jewish would-be athletes and to be a role model they can look up to.

He wants to “inspire other Jews to take up sport, fulfil their passions, give their all, and to represent their homeland by doing so”.

He is dedicating the next seven years to this sport in order to encourage others.

Edelman believes there is a stigma that works against Jews who participate in sport. “Jews are highly represented in almost every field of excellence in the public eye – doctors, lawyers, businessmen, actors, scientists, engineers…” he explained. “The only place Jews are not highly represented by excellence as role models, is in sport. It’s almost as if it is the butt of a joke for Jews to succeed in sport.”

Edelman is setting out not just to succeed at his sport, but to change the message and send out a new one: that Jews can also achieve excellence in sport.

“Athletes like Aly Raisman, who is proudly Jewish and won a gold medal with the US gymnastic team, are sadly the exception to the rule,” said Edelman. And this, according to him, is because there is no prime role model for Jewish children who is proudly Jewish, successful and visible.

“I realised I can inspire them and can be that individual,” said Edelman. “Growing up, I was keenly aware of the way I acted and that my teammates viewed me as a reflection of my community and of Israel, as well as of myself. That was quite a burden. I want to make it easier for the next generation of Jewish athletes.

“I want to be seen by as many Jews as possible. I want them to see the Star of David on my uniform and feel that they can do what I’m doing.”

He believes that if there were more Jews who were active in sport and also living a Jewish life, this would encourage other Jews to also get involved.

He still has many hurdles to clear before he can attain his goal of competing in the Olympics. His secondary objective is to get the Israeli government to recognise that it should be a priority to have Jews represent the country by competing in various sports around the world.

Athletes are known for spreading good PR so it would be good for the image of the country, he believes.

The recent work of Omri Caspi, who brought other NBA stars to Israel to fight the BDS movement’s propaganda, is a perfect example of an athlete who, by competing on the international stage, has succeeded in rehabilitating Israel’s image.

Edelman does not receive support from the state and funds himself, footing the bill for training, competitions, gear, and travel, as well as finding coaches and there’s also living expenses. He co-trains with teams from other small nations.

He needs R550 000 a season. He also has to travel 100km to a coach who would train with him.

Despite all the negatives he says competing for the benefit of Israel gives the sport more meaning. “I felt that I could make a much bigger difference to inspire Jews if I represent the country that I love, my homeland, Israel.

“Every time I hear them announce instructions to clear the track for the Israeli athletes, every time I put on the white and blue, it gives me a tremendous amount of encouragement and a push to succeed and keep going.”

 

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.