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Orthodox Obstacle Course Champion Sports Kippah On Lebron James’ New TV Show

An Orthodox Jew wore a yarmulke as he ran through an obstacle course on CBS’s new competition series on a quest to win $1 million.

Michael Neuman recently competed on Million Dollar Mile, produced by Lebron James and hosted by Tim Tebow, and his episode will air July 13 at 8 p.m. The 25-year-old told CBS that he was proud to wear his kippah during the nationally televised competition, which calls for contestants to run through an obstacle course for, as the name suggests, $1 million — while trying to outrun elite athletes.

“Imagine that, a yeshiva bochor competing against a pro-athlete at his own game,” Neuman said.

The Miami, Florida, native dreamed of being an athlete growing up, but it was difficult to pursue — his family observed Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest, when many of the leagues held games and tournaments. Now he’s psychotherapist and founder of Movement and Active Psychology, which blends exercise with the cognitive practice. He regularly competes in obstacle challenges, including the Spartan Race, and never goes without a kippah, a traditional Jewish headpiece.

“At first I was uncomfortable, people would be staring at me on the start line,” he said. “But then I would remember it’s probably strange for them to see an Orthodox Jew on the start line of a sport. You just never see it in pro-sports. … I was like, let me bring my love for Hashem to this, as well. In the end, people have been really responsive and respectful and it’s brought me friends of all walks of life.”

Religious clothing and accessories are becoming more socially and professionally accepted. In November, Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who wears a headscarf as an observant Muslim, proposed legislation that would allow lawmakers to wear religious headwear in Congress, yarmulkes included. A few months later, Representative Rashida Tlaib of Michigan wore a traditional Palestinian robe as she took her seat in the House.

Alyssa Fisher is a writer at the Forward. Email her at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter at @alyssalfisher

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