Author Battling Antisemitism at the Ice Rink

By Max Gross

Published October 03, 2003, issue of October 03, 2003.
  • Print
  • Share Share

In March 2002, Israeli ice dancers Sergei Sakhnovsky and Galit Chait won a bronze medal at the World Figure Skating Championships in Nagano, Japan, edging out a Lithuanian pair who finished in fourth place. Within days, a petition was circulating among skaters and judges saying that the Israelis’ medal was “not justified.”

“How much did it cost you to buy that medal?” another skater reportedly asked Sakhnovsky.

“There is big money involved with the Israeli couple, and you cannot fight against that,” Povilas Vanagas, one of the Lithuanian skaters, told the press.

“The stereotype of ‘buying’ a medal,” New York-based skating expert Alina Sivorinovsky told the Forward, is classic antisemitism. And it’s particularly ironic considering that the Israel Ice Skating Foundation is struggling financially.

Sivorinovsky — author of “Inside Figure Skating” and “Sarah Hughes: Skating to the Stars” — is doing her part to help, by speaking out against antisemitism in the sport and donating proceeds from her forthcoming mystery novel, “Murder on Ice,” to the foundation, which began its new skating season two weeks ago.

Sivorinovsky said that those who squabbled about the Israeli team in Nagano had been emboldened by an infamous incident a month earlier at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah, when a French judge claimed she had been pressured into voting for the Russian team over the Canadians in the figure skating competition. Sivorinovsky — whose novel, due later this month, was inspired by the Olympic scandal — said that while the arguments in Nagano were similarly framed around judges being unfairly swayed, in the case of the Israeli skaters there was an additional element of antisemitism involved.

Antisemitism, she said, is not uncommon in the world of figure skating. As proof, she points to the case of Michael Shmerkin, an Odessa-born figure skater who immigrated to Israel in 1991. When he entered the International Skating Union world championship in the late 1990s, he set his dances to Jewish songs. He had a prayer shawl and fabric menorah embroidered on the back of his costume. “There were comments: ‘That’s inappropriate — he’s bringing politics into it,’” Sivorinovsky said.

“When you have a huge, international cast of characters, there’s always going to be bits and drafts of antisemitism,” Sivorinovsky told the Forward. In the case of Israeli skaters, she added, this antisemitism manifests itself as animosity toward the country’s athletes.

Israel, with its desert landscapes, isn’t an obvious environment for ice skating, but interest in the sport has grown in the past decade. “Since the Russian immigrants came, it got more and more popular,” Sivorinovsky noted. With the help of the Canadian Jewish community, an ice rink opened in Metulla, near Israel’s northern border, in the 1990s. “A lot of native-born Israelis” are getting involved, she said. “It’s slowly becoming more of a sport.”






Find us on Facebook!
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • 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.