Monday, September 10, 2007

Jews That Would Kick Your Ass

Imi Lichtenfeld and Krav Maga

Krav Maga was developed by Czechoslovakian-born Imi Lichtenfeld, the son of a renowned police officer in Bratislava. Imi was a champion heavyweight boxer, an expert in Ju-Jitsu and Judo as well as a dancer and trapeze acrobat. Imi's family was forced to emigrate, eventually landing in what was then Palestine and is now known as Israel.
Soon after the Israeli state was established in 1948, Imi was asked to develop a system of fighting and self-defense for the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). Imi carefully refined Krav Maga during his career as chief instructor of hand to hand combat for the IDF. Beginning with special forces units like the Haganah, Palmack, and Palyam, Krav Maga became the official combatives training for all military personnel, Israeli police and security forces. Faced with the task of preparing both fit and out-of-shape soldiers, Imi developed a comprehensive system that relied on simple, instinctive moves rather than rigid techniques requiring years of training.

In 1964, Imi retired from the IDF and began teaching Krav Maga to civilians, law enforcement, and military applications. In 1978, Imi and several of his students created the Krav Maga Association, which was aimed at promoting the teaching of Krav Maga in Israel and throughout the world.

In 1981, the Krav Maga Association of Israel and the Israeli Ministry of Education held the first International Instructor's Course at Wingate Institute for Physical Education. A delegation of 23 members from various cities in the U.S. attended the course, which was supervised by Imi himself. Another instructor conducting that program was Eyal Yanilov, one of Imi's closest advisers and now President of the International Krav Maga Federation. Californian Darren Levine was selected to be part of the delegation because of his martial arts and boxing background, as well as his involvement in the physical education program at the Heschel Day School near L.A. During the course, Imi befriended Levine and told him that he would come to the U.S. to teach and train him.

Levine went on to offer Krav Maga classes at the Heschel Day School. At Imi's request, Levine and one of his students, Joel Bernstein, along with other prominent members of the Jewish community in L.A., formed the Krav Maga Association of America, Inc. In 1987, Levine and his top students began teaching Krav Maga to law enforcement in the U.S. Under Imi's guidance, they adapted Krav Maga to suit the needs of U.S. law enforcement and military personnel.
Shortly after Levine received his 6th degree black belt in Krav Maga, Imi awarded him a Founder's Diploma for Special Excellence in Krav Maga. Imi has awarded this diploma only twice. Eyal Yanilov had also received the prestigious diploma. These diplomas were given to the people that Imi wanted to be the leaders of Krav Maga.

Krav Maga Worldwide Enterprises was formed in January of 1999 to expand and promote Krav Maga in the U.S. and around the world. Krav Maga is rapidly gaining in popularity and almost 10,000 people are currently studying the art. It is widely used by members of the U.S.'s local, state and federal police agencies, including the FBI, Secret Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms. Celebrities practicing Krav Maga include singer/actress Jennifer Lopez, and actresses Jennifer Garner ("Alias"), Shannon Elizabeth ("American Pie"),and Mia Kirshner ("Wolf Lake").

Imi Sde-or Lichtenfeld is Krav Maga Funder and unique holder of the GrandMaster title, since he was a boy he always showed great physical attitude especially in martial arts, he was thus an expert in karate, boxe and wrestling.
He invented Krav Maga in order to defend his family and friends from racial abuses in the Jews ghetto of Bratislava and then put his knowledge at the services of the IDF (Isreal Defense Forces).

The Philosophy of Krav Maga is to inflict the strongest pain in the less time possible to the enemy and to leave him without the possibility of counter attacking, that's why Krav Maga is a selection of the most effective martial arts and is currently updated by its developers around the world in order to keep it up to date with world fighting developments.
This is one of my favorite books about Jews who fought back during the Holocaust. I read this book in one sitting. I plan to blog later on Jews who didn't go quietly.

THE AVENGERS By Rich Cohen.Illustrated. 261 pp. New York:Alfred A. Knopf. $25.
In the Book of Exodus, God complains that the Jews are ''a stiff-necked people.'' Over the years, others too have complained that Jews are not easily yoked. Yet the modern era altered that perception. Herded into boxcars and massacred in death camps, the Jews of World War II evoke images of victims.
Not all of Europe's Jews acceded to their unimaginable fate, however. There were those who grasped what the Nazis had in mind and scaled frozen mountains or hid for months under floorboards or in caves. A few stayed and fought back. The way they saw it, according to Rich Cohen, author of this fascinating -- but frustrating -- story of a small group of Jewish partisans, ''It was fight and die, or don't fight and still die.''
In truth, the successes of the Jewish partisans were few -- a blown-up rail car here, several dozen dead enemy officers there -- and most were captured and executed. But the depth of their courage, the unambiguous justice of their cause and the raw evil of their tormentors make for an inspiring tale. What does it take to crawl in human waste through the sewers of the Vilna ghetto to transport parts of a single machine gun? To live without bread on a swamp island in the Rudnicki forest of southern Lithuania worrying not only about invading German soldiers but neighboring Jew-hating Polish partisans? To carry out a revenge plot against the Germans after the war? Those are the stories that Cohen tells in ''The Avengers.''
Cohen, a contributing editor at Rolling Stone, seems to have a special interest in stiff-necked Jews. His first book, ''Tough Jews,'' was a well-received account of American Jewish gangsters. This new book comes from somewhere quite personal. One of its three main characters, Ruzka Korczak, who as a young woman was a fierce partisan, is a relative of his, and he grew up visiting her and her two colleagues in arms, Vitka Kempner and Abba Kovner, on family trips from suburban Chicago to Israel. He says he decided their story had to be told before it was lost.
Many Israelis know vaguely about Abba Kovner, who died in 1987 after fame as a partisan and poet. In the early 1990's, his name surfaced again, however, with the publication of ''The Seventh Million,'' by Tom Segev, an Israeli historian and newspaper columnist. Segev took on the then-taboo topic of the contempt with which many Israelis viewed the Holocaust and its survivors. For the first time, Segev revealed a shocking plot hatched by Kovner to bring a small group of fighters, named the Avengers, back to Germany after the war. The plan was to poison the country's water supply in an effort to kill six million Germans. Apparently tipped off by Zionist leaders, who saw the plan as dangerous to their state building, the British jailed Kovner as he was trying to leave Palestine in late 1945. He got word to his colleagues, however, and a much scaled-back version of his plot was carried out several months later and did have some effect. A couple of thousand Nazi officers were fed bread poisoned by the Avengers at the local bakery. How many died, if any, remains unclear.
Cohen says that he, in effect, informally interviewed Kovner and his wife, Vitka, on and off during family visits over the years. Then, in 1998, he spent some weeks in Israel interviewing Vitka, who took him to see other aging partisans. He put together the full story of Kovner and his two women partners starting from their days as partisan fighters and ending with the founding of Israel. It is a story that has been told in bits and pieces in a number of different books but never in an accessible, clear narrative.
Cohen is a skilled writer. His language is spare and muscular, his descriptions evocative, his technique suspenseful. He is moved by this story and he moves us. We meet brave Jews and cowardly ones, as well as other intriguing characters -- a mother superior who sews a yellow star on her coat to work for the Jewish fighters, a German officer who risks everything to help and is ultimately captured and killed. This book would no doubt make a powerful movie.
But as a piece of history, even oral history, it is irresponsible. Cohen makes no attempt to sort out versions of the past and offers no narrative tools to help readers understand where a particular account or detail comes from. The omniscient narrator simply tells the tale, complete with long quotations and inner monologues from the dead. It is therefore impossible to take the book seriously as a work of nonfiction.
A useful example of this concerns Kovner's assertion (in oral history interviews at Hebrew University) that Chaim Weizmann, Israel's first president, encouraged him to try to poison Germans after the war. In Cohen's account, the encounter is simply told as objective truth. Segev, on the other hand, tells the same story and then writes:
''Kovner has remained the sole source for this part of the story. The Weizmann archives contain no mention of a discussion with Kovner; Weizmann was out of the country at the time. It is possible, then, that the poet dreamed up the meeting. He may have wished, after the fact, to claim official support for his plan of revenge.''
If this point, or some version of it, appeared even in a footnote by Cohen, that would be enough. But Cohen has no footnotes. It may be that his research convinced him that Kovner's account of the Weizmann endorsement is legitimate. But we can't tell, just as we can't tell if other details come from other histories or from a 20-minute conversation on a kibbutz with an aging partisan. The ideological divisions among the partisans colored much of what they subsequently wrote and said. The historian Lucy S. Dawidowicz, who told key parts of the Vilna partisan story in her book ''The War Against the Jews,'' stated explicitly there that the accounts vary markedly. Cohen seems to care little about such details. He wants only to tell a good story. This is a pity because what could have been a thrilling and authoritative work remains thrilling alone.
(Taken from the San Diego Jewish Journal)

The Hebrew Hulk Former wrestling demi-god Goldberg took Jewish pride to a whole new bone-crunching level. But will his budding film career turn out like The Rock’s – or Hulk Hogan’s? By Judd Handler

After nearly two decades of relentlessly punishing his body between football and wrestling, Bill Goldberg – AKA “Goldberg” – hurts. Bad. “My joints are in a lot of pain,” he moans. “I’ll probably die when I’m 60.” “Don’t say that,” says his wife, stuntwoman Wanda Ferraton. “Bill’s been hurt more from wrestling than he did in football,” she adds. “That’s right,” says Goldberg. “Like when I punched out a windshield trying to get to Scott Hall, who said something to me in the ring I didn’t like. The promoters wanted me to use a sledgehammer to break the glass; I used my hand instead. I had to get 200 stitches in my right arm.” And then there was the time he dislocated three bones in his hand and still beat three opponents in one night. As Goldberg steps on a scale, Ferraton light-heartedly ridicules her man for being so concerned about his weight. “You’re just like a girl,” she says. How times have changed. If anyone had said that to Goldberg during his pro wrestling career in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, they probably would have been hit with the “Goldberg Spear.” Or perhaps the infamous “Jackhammer.” Either way, they’d pay… in pain. But at 38, Goldberg has mellowed out. He’s mostly done with wrestling (give or take a few exhibitions here and in Japan). He and Ferraton were married last month. And he’s looking to transform his popularity as a pro wrestler into a less physically demanding career as a star on TV and the big screen. This month he’ll be seen in MTV’s big-screen remake of the 1974 prison football comedy “The Longest Yard.” He also plays a bitter homicidal Santa Claus in an upcoming horror film called “Santa’s Slay.” (And who said Hollywood is bankrupt of good ideas?) This avid car collector will also host a new show on the History Channel called “AutoManiac.” Premiering Wednesday, June 1, the show will focus on interesting cars through history, like gangster cars, hot rods and lowriders. Goldberg’s home east of Oceanside has a 14-car garage and he owns more than two dozen vintage cars. After topping out at 290 pounds during his wrestling days, Goldberg is down to 265 pounds. With a neck thicker than an Amazonian anaconda, a tribal-themed tattoo on his left shoulder and trapezius muscles that look like Popeye’s biceps on spinach, Goldberg still cuts an imposing figure. But when he briefly lifts up his t-shirt to scratch his belly, you can see his abs aren’t as chiseled as they were during his glory days. Driving back and forth to L.A., sitting for hours in trailers waiting for film takes and eating unhealthy food has taken its toll on Goldberg’s training regimen. Once his hectic schedule calms down, he says, he will be back to sparring and training at the gym he co-owns in Oceanside, Extreme Power. After a short and injury-prone football career in the early ‘90s, Goldberg was hand-picked by Hulk Hogan – one of the most popular wrestlers ever – to be his successor. “It was mainly Hulk Hogan who wanted to pass the torch to me,” he says. “He had the confidence in me to carry it but he easily could have picked dozens of other wrestlers. I was lucky... I’ve always been lucky.” Says fellow Jewish wrestler Barry Horowitz, who sometimes wrestled in a painfully tight set of blue shorts stamped with the Star of David, “Bill Goldberg’s success was a mixture of being in the right place at the right time… and a whole lot of luck.” Goldberg became one of the biggest stars on the wrestling circuit, winning a World Championship Wrestling U.S. Heavyweight title in 1998 and ‘99 and the World Wrestling Entertainment World Heavyweight belt in 2003. (In 2001, the WCW was absorbed by WWE.) Originally, Goldberg wanted to be called Mossad, after Israel’s badass intelligence agency. “I didn’t want to use Goldberg because it’s not an imposing name,” he says. But three months after debuting as Bill Gold, he decided to go by “Goldberg” for his first television appearance for World Championship Wrestling. “Ultimately,” he says, “I decided that I have nothing to hide.” “I’m a 6-foot-4, 290-pound Jewish kid having his name chanted by thousands of people and yeah, I think that’s funny,” says Goldberg. “But people were chanting my name not because I’m coming out in a suit and tie and doing your taxes, but because I wanted to rip my opponents’ arms out of their sockets.” With his signature scowl and threatening catchphrase “Who’s next?,” Goldberg body-slammed stereotypes of Jewish men – for better or worse. “It’s been a blessing to be a role model for those Jewish kids who never had a Jewish sports hero to look up to,” he says, “especially those who were too young to remember [Sandy] Koufax or aren’t into baseball and don’t follow the career of Shawn Green.”
Goldberg was raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the son of a now-divorced gynecologist (father Jed) and concert violinist (mother Ethel). According to Bill, his grandfather was even taller, at 6-7. “[Goldberg] was the biggest kid even at his bar mitzvah,” recalls Rabbi Charles Sherman, who trained Goldberg for his bar mitzvah at Temple Israel in Tulsa. As such, he was a natural for the football field. Coming out of high school in 1985, Goldberg was one of the most sought-after recruits in Oklahoma. He had a spectacular college career at the University of Georgia, starting every game three out of his four years, and being named All-Southeastern Conference twice and a second team All-American in 1989. By the time he graduated from Georgia in ‘89 with a degree in psychology, he was seventh on Georgia’s all-time career tackles list with 348 and sixth on its career sacks list with 12. But at 265 pounds, he was a bit small for a NFL-caliber nose tackle. He was drafted in the 11th round of the 1990 NFL draft by the then-Los Angeles Rams, but never played a game for them. He eventually found his way to the Atlanta Falcons, and ended up playing in 14 games spread over three seasons. In 1995, an abdominal injury forced him to end his football dreams for good. After his pro football career ended, Goldberg became a personal trainer at an Atlanta gym. A few pro wrestlers worked out at the gym and persuaded him to give wrestling a try at the WCW’s training center in Atlanta, the Power Plant. In a sport where success is defined more by fan interest than talent, Goldberg was a favorite from the start. Perhaps because of his ironically innocuous wrestling moniker, Goldberg became one of the wrestling world’s “good guys,” receiving cheers for beating the likes of The Rock and Hulk Hogan. Goldberg thinks his popularity was due to his ability to “maim someone in the ring, walk out triumphantly, grab some kids and raise their hands up in the air and smile at them and give ‘em joy.” He wasn’t the only Jewish wrestler on the circuit at the time, only the most successful. His opponent for the 1998 WCW U.S. Heavyweight title match was Scott Levy, AKA “The Raven.” Other Jewish wrestlers at the time included Dean Malenko (“Dean Simon”) and Horowitz. Goldberg says he never experienced any anti-Semitism as a wrestler. “When I wrestled in the Deep South in places like Alabama, I thought people would lynch me,” he says. “That was my predisposed impression.” On the contrary, Goldberg recalls fans in the heart of the Bible Belt waving posters with Stars of David and chanting his name. Although Goldberg now celebrates the high holidays and has recently rediscovered his Jewish identity, he says, “I’m so far from religious it’s not even funny, but I guarantee when my girlfriend and I get married, I’ll have a rabbi marry us and I’ll be breakin’ the glass right next to her.” (Which he did, last month.) Goldberg continues, “I’m very proud of my tradition. It doesn’t mean I have to read the Torah every day, but hell, I wrestled in front of millions of people and called myself by my real name. That’s a testament to myself that I’m proud of.” Rabbi Sherman – who’s still giving sermons and blessing babies after 28 years at Tulsa’s Temple Israel – backs him up. “He once considered the possibility of changing his name,” says Sherman, “but I think it says a lot about his character that he kept it.” Jewish pride aside, what does the future hold for Goldberg? Will he rock like The Rock, or misfire at the movies like his mentor Hulk Hogan? For what it’s worth, Goldberg knows how to play angry. “Every time I stepped into that ring, I was never acting,” he says. “If you go out there and act too much it looks like acting. I was just being me. I was fired up and angry. I want guys to hit me in the ring. I thrive on it.” Judd Handler is a freelance writer based in Encinitas. He can be reached at feedback, contact
November 20, 2006
Jewish boxers are back in the news.
Rafael Medoff
An undefeated Israeli heavyweight boxer, Roman Greenberg, will fight in Hollywood, Florida, on Dec. 1, in just his fourth bout in the United States. He is ranked 40th out of 888 boxers in the world by the World Boxing Council.

Last year, another Jewish prizefighter, Dimitry "The Star of David" Salita, captured the junior welterweight championship of the National Boxing Association.

The Jewish prizefighters of the pre-World War II era have also been garnering attention of late. The National Museum of American Jewish History has organized a traveling exhibit called "Sting Like a Maccabee: The Golden Age of the American Jewish Boxer." And the first biography of Barney Ross, the best-known Jewish fighter of the 1930s, was recently published.
Douglas Century's biography of Ross - born Dov-Ber Rasofsky - is especially significant because it sheds light on the fact that Ross not only symbolized Jewish toughness when he entered the boxing ring, but fought just as hard for the Jewish people outside the ring.

Born to a struggling Jewish immigrant family in Chicago, Ross was thrust into the role of family breadwinner at the age of 14, when his father was murdered in a holdup in 1923. He turned to boxing to earn money for his mother and five siblings. Ross won the lightweight, junior welterweight, and welterweight championships, in a career that saw him victorious in 77 of 81 bouts.
As Prof. Jeffrey Gurock explains in his new book, Judaism's Encounter with American Sports, Jewish boxers like Ross became wildly popular in the American Jewish community. At a time when American Jews were frequent targets of antisemitism, they saw Ross' fighting prowess as an antidote to the stereotypical image of Jews as physically unfit.

Ross retired from the boxing ring in 1938, but was back in the public eye just three years later, when, at age 32, he enlisted in the U.S. army after Pearl Harbor. In the battle of Guadalcanal, Ross was seriously wounded while rescuing injured comrades from a Japanese ambush. His battlefield heroics earned him a Silver Star. And there was more to come.

Upon his return to the United States in 1944, Ross became one of the first professional athletes to become active in a political cause, by joining the Emergency Committee to Save the Jewish People of Europe, also known as the Bergson group. The Committee used full-page newspaper ads, public rallies, and Capitol Hill lobbying to pressure the Roosevelt administration to rescue Jews from Hitler.

Ross' fame helped draw attention to Bergson's rescue campaign, which culminated in the autumn of 1943 with the introduction of a Congressional resolution urging creation of a U.S. government agency to rescue Jewish refugees. Together with behind-the-scenes lobbying by Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, Jr. and his aides, the resolution helped persuade FDR to establish the War Refugee Board. The board's activities, which included financing the rescue work of Raoul Wallenberg, played a key role in rescuing more than 200,000 Jews during the last months of the war.

Ross also became active in another of the Bergson committees, the American League for a Free Palestine, which sought to rally American support for the creation of a Jewish State. He spoke at its rallies and chaired its George Washington Legion, which recruited American volunteers to aid the Irgun Zvai Leumi, the Jewish underground militia (headed by Menachem Begin) that was fighting the British in Mandatory Palestine. The Legion was patterned on the famous Abraham Lincoln Brigade, which had recruited Americans to fight against Franco in the 1930s Spanish Civil War. One of the Bergson group's newspaper ads featured a photo of Ross with this message from the boxing champ: "There is no such thing as a former fighter. We must all continue the fight."

Sy Dill, today a resident of Providence, R.I., was a teenage volunteer in the Bergson Group's New York City headquarters in 1947. I recently asked Sy about his memories of the afternoon that Ross walked into the office. "He was a real hero, and it was an incredible thrill to meet him in person," Dill recalled. "When he shook my hand, he nearly broke it - I guess that's what you should expect from a boxer! It was a moment that I will remember forever."

Ross' niece, Audrey Cantor of Chicago, hopes that today's new generation of Jewish prizefighters will look to Barney Ross as their role model. "Not only as a boxer," she emphasizes, "but more importantly, as someone who fought for the Jewish people."
Dr. Medoff is director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies,


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