High-School Sport, Shabbat, and the Failures of American Jewry

In April, ESPN published an article about Oliver Ferber, a track star at a nondenominational Jewish school who decided to sit out an important race scheduled to take place on Shabbat—despite pressure from his Jewish teammates. Meir Soloveichik sees a dark side to this seemingly inspirational story of religious commitment:

ESPN describes for its readers how Jewish students psychologically tortured a fellow Jew because of his adherence to traditional Judaism. Many adjectives exist to describe this bullying behavior, but perhaps one, above all, should be emphasized: un-American. It is worth pondering whether George Washington, echoing Newport’s Jews when he celebrated America as a country that “gives to bigotry no sanction, persecution no assistance,” could ever have imagined a day in which American Jews would be the bigots, giving persecution every assistance in order to pressure a classmate to cease his Judaic observance. Washington famously concluded his letter with the pluralistic prayer that Americans sit each “under his own vine and fig tree,” so that “none shall make them afraid,” and all will be “everlastingly happy.” Oliver did not have vine or fig tree; but we are told that in the midst of this bullying he did sit inside his car, finding himself as anything but everlastingly happy: “‘I just sat there.’ Then he burst into tears.”

In his This Is My God, [Herman] Wouk imagines an assimilated Jew encountering Ḥasidim and resenting how they remind him “with their mere presence in the street that he is burying a part of his background that cannot be buried. They are skeletons out of his closet.” That, in the end, is how Oliver may have been seen in his school. He was (pun intended) “a traitor to his class,” a Jew who had the gall to summon the skeleton of Sabbath observance from the Jewish past, a skeleton that was thought permanently buried, but that had the unmitigated chutzpah to resurrect itself in 21st-century America.

Meanwhile, if Oliver’s classmates were un-American, the Gentiles in his athletic circle were anything but.

Read more at Commentary

More about: American Jewry, George Washington, Herman Wouk, Jewish education, Shabbat, Sports


Hamas Wants a Renewed Ceasefire, but Doesn’t Understand Israel’s Changed Attitude

Yohanan Tzoreff, writing yesterday, believes that Hamas still wishes to return to the truce that it ended Friday morning with renewed rocket attacks on Israel, but hopes it can do so on better terms—raising the price, so to speak, of each hostage released. Examining recent statements from the terrorist group’s leaders, he tries to make sense of what it is thinking:

These [Hamas] senior officials do not reflect any awareness of the changed attitude in Israel toward Hamas following the October 7 massacre carried out by the organization in the western Negev communities. They continue to estimate that as before, Israel will be willing to pay high prices for its people and that time is working in their favor. In their opinion, Israel’s interest in the release of its people, the pressure of the hostages’ families, and the public’s broad support for these families will ultimately be decisive in favor of a deal that will meet the new conditions set by Hamas.

In other words, the culture of summud (steadfastness), still guides Hamas. Its [rhetoric] does not show at all that it has internalized or recognized the change in the attitude of the Israeli public toward it—which makes it clear that Israel still has a lot of work to do.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli Security