Jews aren’t exactly famous for their athletic prowess — the punch line of many a joke, including this classic from “Airplane!”
But in honor of Hanukkah, Sports Illustrated is generously celebrating “prominent Jewish athletes,” compiling an online compendium of top Jewish sports stars from over the past 70 years.
A list rather than a ranking, the collection focuses primarily on professional athletes, ranging from baseball players Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax to NFL great Sid Luckman. There’s also hockey goalie Marty Turco, billed as the “smartest goalie in the NHL,” and tattooed, Ukrainian-born NFL player Igor Olshansky. Several Olympic champions are also in the mix, including swimmer Dara Torres and two Jewish gold medalists once featured on the SI cover: swimmer Mark Spitz and ice skater Sarah Hughes.
In the tradition of Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax, Nathan Diament, the director of the Orthodox Union’s Institute for Public Affairs, will be sitting out an important event due to religious observance. Only this time, it’s not a baseball game, it’s a Ramadan feast — at the White House.
Last year, Diament joined Israeli ambassador Michael Oren, Religious Action Center director David Saperstein and a long list of diplomats and politicians at President Obama’s interfaith dinner celebrating Ramadan.
Jewish Mets fans across the city are abuzz over news of this season’s first-baseman, 23-year-old Ike Davis (actually, Isaac Benjamin Davis), the first Jewish kid to ever come up solely through the Mets farm system and make the big league team.
Davis, who’s batting an impressive .355 in his first 10 games, is being hyped more than any Jewish ballplayer in the city since Sandy Koufax. “I am really proud of my Jewish heritage,” Davis, 23, told SNY.tv recently. “I did grow up celebrating both Christmas and Hanukkah. I know there haven’t been too many of us. So I’m glad Jewish kids get to see they can grow up to be professional baseball players.”