Murderers Row Pays Tribute to Jewish Athletes

Famed Jewish Scribes Give Take on Heroes in New Book

He Scores! ‘Jewish Jocks’ offers fresh literary takes on famed athletes like Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax.
Wikimedia
He Scores! ‘Jewish Jocks’ offers fresh literary takes on famed athletes like Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax.

By Jason Diamond

Published October 19, 2012, issue of October 26, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Jewish Jocks: An Unorthodox Hall of Fame
Edited by Franklin Foer and Marc Tracy
Twelve, 304 pages, $26.99

As long as people are reading the Bible, Jews will always be thought of as a stubborn people. You can thank God for that: In Deuteronomy 9:6, God tells Moses that the Israelites are “stiff-necked.” As long as there are rich people named Rothschild, there will always be people that are convinced Jews run the global financial markets. As long as there are copies of Frank Zappa’s 1979 album “Sheik Yerbouti” for sale, listeners will always have a lewd example of the stereotypical Jewish American Princess. Stereotypes have followed Jews all across the globe, no matter how inaccurate or insensitive they may be.

In their introduction to “Jewish Jocks,” New Republic editor Franklin Foer and former Tablet Magazine editor Marc Tracy, now a staff writer at the New Republic, don’t use the word “stereotype” to discuss the fact that there haven’t been that many truly great Jewish athletes. Instead, they refer to a “Jewish ambivalence” about sports, noting that swimming is mentioned in the Talmud for the sake of survival and that Maimonides espouses exercise for a healthy body, but never for the sake of competition.

But Jewish failure at sport is another stereotype that has been around for centuries, never mind the fact that the modern era has produced a handful of great Jewish boxing world champs; Jews who have raised the Stanley Cup over their heads; Jews who helped create the style of American football that millions watch every Sunday, and, of course, Sandy Koufax, who retired from baseball in 1966 and is still considered the quintessential American Jewish athlete of the last hundred years. An essay on Koufax, written by Jane Leavy, who already wrote extensively about him in her 2005 best-selling biography of the pitcher, appears in “Jewish Jocks.” Here her take is a bit more personal, as she discusses Koufax accepting an invitation to her daughter’s bat mitzvah.

“Jewish Jocks” is filled to the brim with impressive writers writing about impressive people. The assembled names constitute a who’s who of popular fiction writers, award-winning journalists and a few folks who have had films and television shows adapted from their work. But while the title implies that the collection could help chip away at the age-old stereotype by presenting tales of, well, Jewish jocks, a good portion of the book is dedicated to Jews known more for their brains than for their fast legs or great passing arms.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.