Meet the Orthodox ‘American Ninja Warrior’ training to be a rabbi

Akiva Neuman, an Orthodox Jew who is studying to be a rabbi, competes in the Philadelphia qualifying round of “American Ninja Warrior.” (Mitchell Leff/NBC)

NEW YORK (JTA) — Like his fellow competitors on “American Ninja Warrior,” 25-year-old Akiva Neuman pushed himself to his physical limits — climbing, jumping and running through an intense obstacle course — in the hopes of making it to the national finals in Las Vegas. But unlike the dozens… Read more »

Kids’ soccer leagues aim to bridge Israel’s religious divide

Members of the Tzav Pius 13-year-olds' team in the Israeli city of Pardes Hanna participating before practice in an educational exercise meant to teach teamwork.

PARDES HANNA, Israel (JTA) — When Yoel decided, at age 8, to begin observing Shabbat, there was one problem: It meant he couldn’t join most of Israel’s youth soccer teams, which played games on Saturday. Yoel, now 12, has always lived in the increasingly large gray area between Israel’s… Read more »

Baseball’s back: Here’s a look at 8 Jewish major leaguers and a manager

Joc Pederson taking a swing against the Washington Nationals, Aug. 12, 2015. (Hillel Kuttler)

(JTA) – Will Joc Pederson rebound from his second-half struggles of last season? Can Kevin Pillar build on his strong 2015 campaign? Will injuries derail one-time MVP Ryan Braun? These are some of the questions to be answered as these Jewish players and others get set for the Major… Read more »

At Utah’s on-slope Shabbat service, ski boots required

An Israeli flag is posted at Deer Valley's Sunset Cabin every Friday afternoon to alert skiers to the weekly Kabbalat Shabbat service. (Uriel Heilman)

PARK CITY, Utah (JTA) – It may be the most elevated Shabbat service in the country, and not just because of the spirited singing. Held in a rustic cabin in the woods off a ski slope at Deer Valley resort, the service is situated at about 8,800 feet above sea level,… Read more »

For ex-baseball players, Israel a place to learn and teach

Nate Fish, director of the Israel Association of Baseball, demonstrating pitching to Israeli kids. (Margo Sugarman/IAB)

  (JTA) – Out of baseball after four years playing in the minor leagues, Brent Powers, a Christian from Texas, took a tour of Israel last year with his wife. He was smitten with the country and considered how to return. The Masa Israel Journey will provide his path.… Read more »

Did a Jewish woman blaze a new path for women in pro baseball?

Justine Siegal, prior to coaching for the Oakland Athletics, had already made baseball history by throwing batting practice for the Cleveland Indians in 2011. (Norm Hall/Getty Images)

(JTA) – For Justine Siegal, attending Opening Day games of the Cleveland Indians with her grandfather led to a lifelong passion for baseball – and dreams of one day playing for the Tribe. “Heaven,” she called the outings, where she sat in the best seats in the house —… Read more »

For Jewish boxer ‘The White Tiger,’ toughness is a birthright

Boxer Dustin Fleischer hopes to be the first world champion who is the descendant of a Holocaust survivor. (Rich Kane/Roc Nation Sports)

Editor’s note: this article was written before Dustin Fleischer’s bout on Sept. 26, which he won with a first round knockout.  (JTA) – When welterweight Dustin Fleischer enters the ring on Saturday evening, he’ll will be wearing his late grandfather’s gold Star of David necklace with a red jewel… Read more »

Meet Joc Pederson, the Jewish rookie powering L.A. Dodgers’ run to playoffs

Joc Pederson taking a swing against the Washington Nationals, Aug. 12, 2015. (Hillel Kuttler)

WASHINGTON (JTA) – Ask Los Angeles Dodgers’ rookie outfielder Joc Pederson how his season is going, and he’ll talk about the team. “We’re playing great baseball, and that’s something we’re looking to continue to do,” a shy and wary Pederson told JTA recently following a spirited game of dice with… Read more »

NHL lawyer excels for league and family – can she make history?

(JTA) – Several years ago, Jessica Berman and her husband, Brad, bumped into her high school boyfriend. “If you aren’t working as a lawyer in hockey, I’d be amazed,” Berman recalled him saying. The ex had her pegged. Berman, 37, has been employed by the National Hockey League for… Read more »

Hebrew in the huddle: American-style football gains ground in Israel

Alex Swieca, a former quarterback at the University of Michigan, throws a pass in a scrimmage at Jerusalem's Kraft Stadium, June 21, 2015. (Ben Sales)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The scent of hamburgers and beer wafted over the field. The fans were bathed in barbecue smoke.The bleachers were cut out of Jerusalem stone, the field was made of artificial turf. The spectators who had come to greet a tour of Pro Football Hall of Famers… Read more »

As Lightning vies for Stanley Cup, the team’s Jewish owner chats with JTA

Jeffrey Vinik says his Lightning has "really resonated" in the Tampa-area community, noting "great fans" and soaring television ratings. (Scott Iskowitz/TBL)

  (JTA) — Jeffrey Vinik, the owner of the National Hockey League’s Tampa Bay Lightning, is experiencing a first: his team playing in the Stanley Cup Finals, which opened June 3 in Florida against the Chicago Blackhawks. (Under previous owners, the Lightning won the Stanley Cup in 2004.) Tampa… Read more »

In Tel Aviv, it’s Super Bowl Early Monday Morning

Some Israelis stayed up all nightto watch the Patriots celebrate their fourth Super Bowl victory in 14 years, Feb. 1, 2015. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

TEL AVIV (JTA) — There were wings, beers, giant TV screens, and football fans wearing New England Patriots sweatshirts and Seattle Seahawks jerseys. If not for the fact that it was 1 a.m. and former Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid stood in the center of the bar, it could… Read more »

What Jewish ethics tell us about ‘Deflategate’

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and owner Robert Kraft are all smiles after beating the Inidanapolis Colts, but will a Super Bowl victory be tainted by "Deflategate?" (Elsa/Getty Images)

(JTA) – “Deflategate,” the controversy surrounding the New England Patriots that has made national news, made its way to a Houston business conference led by a rabbi. Rabbi Yossi Grossman, dean of the Jewish Ethics Institute, on Monday transformed the football prattle into a high-minded look at ethics on… Read more »

JCC fundraiser to benefit challenged athletes

Mary Kate Callahan (front) and her teammates (L-R): Abigail Will, Laura Haley, Jessica Honea, Kimberly Nicolai, Molly Supple and Halli Schmittenberg celebrate the end of a successful season for the University of Arizona Women’s triathlon team. (Photo: Jimmy Song Photography)

The Tucson Jewish Community Center will present “Consider Yourself Challenged,” a family friendly fundraiser on Sunday, Feb. 8 from 4 to 6:30 p.m. The University of Arizona TriCats will be on hand to conduct children’s activities and discuss equipment and training required to participate in a triathlon. Mary Kate… Read more »

For a Jewish baseball purist, Cuba beckons

Children playing a baseball game in the streets of Havana. "For the baseball purists, those who love to go to Cuba, it's a unique culture," Kit Krieger says. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

(JTA) – To the dismay of baseball fan Kit Krieger, future travels to Cuba will no longer include get-togethers with ex-Washington Senators pitcher Connie Marrero. Marrero, who played for Washington from 1950 to 1954, died in Havana last April at age 102, a few months after Krieger’s last visit… Read more »

With ‘team’ portrait, Jewish ballplayers go to bat for charities

Sandy Koufax is out front in the Ron Lewis painting of Jewish major leaguers and others. The sale of 500 autographed prints is partly for profit and charity. (

(JTA) – At the first Detroit Tigers game he attended, in 1940, Bob Matthews saw slugging first baseman Hank Greenberg play. Now a retired orthodontist living in Farmington Hills, Mich., Matthews can gaze each day at his hero’s image on visits to the Jewish Community Center of Metropolitan Detroit… Read more »

Hoops guru David Thorpe connects with players on and off the court

Trainer David Thorpe is flanked by two of his pupils -- Israelis Gal Mekel, left, and Omri Casspi, both playing in the NBA. Courtesy David Thorpe)

BALTIMORE (JTA) – Rodney Glasgow catches a pass, pivots, takes one dribble and lays the ball in the basket. David Thorpe, Glasgow’s coach and trainer for a couple of weeks this summer, steps in to offer some pointers, instructing the former Virginia Military Institute guard to look up after… Read more »