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!
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • This 007 hates guns, drives a Prius, and oh yeah — goes to shul with Scarlett Johansson's dad.
  • Meet Alvin Wong. He's the happiest man in America — and an observant Jew. The key to happiness? "Humility."
  • "My first bra was a training bra, a sports bra that gave the illusion of a flat chest."
  • "If the people of Rwanda can heal their broken hearts and accept the Other as human, so can we."
  • Aribert Heim, the "Butcher of Mauthausen," died a free man. How did he escape justice?
  • This guy skipped out on seder at his mom's and won a $1 million in a poker tournament. Worth it?
  • 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.