How Does Olympic Ice Dancer Charlie White Balance Gold Medal and Judaism?

Helps That He's Not Really Jewish

getty images

By Bintel Brief

Published March 14, 2014, issue of March 14, 2014.

At the recently completed Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Americans Charlie White and Meryl Davis thrilled audiences with their gold medal victory in ice dancing. Jewish Americans, in particular, celebrated Charlie White as a new breed of Jewish sports hero, following in the footsteps — or, in his case, skate marks — of Benny Leonard, Sandy Koufax and Mark Spitz.

Our readers want to know how he manages the delicate dance of athletic fame and Jewish identity with nary a slip.

Dear Charlie,

My son is a star quarterback for his high school baseball team — another Sid Luckman! His team has a big game scheduled for Yom Kippur, and I don’t think he should play on such a holy day, but I also want him to make his own decisions like a man. What should I do?

*Torn in Tacoma*

Dear Torn,

That’s a tough decision for any family to make, whether it’s a Jewish family for Yom Kippur or a Muslim family on Eid. In my own Christian family, the question of whether to compete or even practice on a Sunday morning during church required some thought about one’s priorities in life. It’s a decision that is best made by everybody in the family so that there are no regrets later, but perhaps there’s some way that he could play on Yom Kippur but not eat, or perhaps say a confession later?

Best of luck to your son — he sounds very talented, and I’m sure he’ll find the right balance.

Love,

Charlie

Dear Mr. Charlie,

You are the hero of my temple sisterhood! All of our children want to take ice dancing lessons now. What Jewish athletes inspired you when you were growing up?

Kvelling in Kalamazoo

Dear Kvelling,

I’m so glad that our performances have inspired young children. I do think there’s actually been a slight misunderstanding though — I’m not myself Jewish. There was a miscommunication a few years ago with the Detroit Jewish News because my maternal grandmother married a Jewish man after my mother was born. It was actually quite a funny mistake and we all had a good laugh about it, but other papers kept quoting it, so now it’s out there.

The good wishes of Jewish sports fans have been really lovely, but I’m not Jewish and don’t plan to convert (unlike baseball great Rod Carew). My heroes growing up were the great British ice dancing team of Torvill and Dean.

Sincerely,

Charlie

Dear Charlie,

What’s a nice Jewish boy like you still doing single? Do you believe in a beshert? Do you think I might be it [wink!]?

  • Robin in Raleigh*

Dear Robin,

Again, I’m not Jewish. I have great respect for the Jewish people and their traditions, and I welcome their good wishes, but I personally am not of that faith. I’m not sure what a beshert is, but good luck.

With respect,

Charlie

Dear Charlie (do you ever go by Chaim?),

Your sense of drama and ability to keep the audience wrapped around your finger is astonishing. Was it at your bar mitzvah that you discovered this talent? What was your d’var torah?

  • Curious in Quincy*

Dear Curious,

Gevalt! Will you people never listen? I am NOT Jewish! Oy vey iz mir! How many times must I explain this to you shtunks? Do you have kreplach for brains? IKH BIN NISHT KEYN YID!!

Now leave me alone!

Chaim


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