Jews are no strangers to Olympic success. Mark Spitz has nine Olympic golds and set the bar in Men’s swimming until that guy Michael Philips…Philip Philips…oh, yeah…Phelps came along. There was also the 1996 memorable performance by Kerri Strug and 2006 Silver medalist in Figure Skating, Sasha Cohen. And now the newest Jewish Olympic hero, Aly Raisman, has risen to great heights by capturing two golds and a bronze.
Raisman caught the attention of the Jewish people everywhere with her floor routine to Havah Nagliah. This song known to not only by the Jewish people as a Jewish song but to the world was a loud statement. And as she accepted her medal, Raisman addressed the massacre of the Munich 11, “If there had been a moment’s silence,” Raisman said, “I would have supported it and respected it,” the New York Post notes.
Raisman was bold in her choice of song and courageous in speaking up for her people. No question that Raisman should be celebrated for her accomplishments and actions, but to what extent? With the media glorifying her actions and the Jewish world Kvelling over this brave young woman, how much should the Jewish people rally behind her?
In this week’s Parsha, Re’eh, we read the lines “If there arise in the midst of thee a prophet of a dreamer of dreams-and he give thee a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spoke unto thee saying: let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; thou shalt not hearken unto his words of that prophet.” Nechama Leibowitz writes of such a man that “it is clear that he is considered to be a false prophet.” In her Torah commentary Leibowitz questions the idea of a prophet and states that the Torah is clear of what a true prophet speaks of.
Today, because of her accomplishments and visibility, on a small scale Raisman has been viewed as a dreamer of dreams. She is someone who stood up for the Jewish people, at a time when the Olympic committee would not, and pointed us in a direction.
The difference between a prophet, false or true, and Raisman is what comes after. Often we see athletes or celebrities have their moment in the Jewish sun, a moment where they wear their Jewish-ness across their chest. But more often than not, after that moment they remain a medium only in memory. We remember Sandy Koufax for his taking off for Yom Kippur, but not for his ability to lead the Jewish people. We know that rapper Drake wears a chai necklace, but where is he when we need him to take stand? This is not to say some don’t; Alan Veingrad, Gabe Carimi, and many others have taken a large interest in the Jewish community, and I hope Raisman uses her new voice to continue to be a leader in the Jewish world.
Many of us have heard about the Raisman story and it brings us great pride as a people. We should feel that joy, but we must remember not to let it go. Too long we wait for someone else to speak up or even for that prophet. Let Raisman’s success and her jolt of Jewish awareness be that spark we all need to take control of our Jewish lives, and not let her efforts fall by the wayside like so many other missed opportunities.
And Let Us Say…Amen.
- Rabbi Jeremy
Filed Under: Politics & News