President Joe Biden cheers at the opening ceremony of the Maccabiah Games in Jerusalem in July. RONEN ZVULUN/POOL/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

The top 8 Jewish sports moments of 2022

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The top 8 Jewish sports moments of 2022

President Joe Biden cheers at the opening ceremony of the Maccabiah Games in Jerusalem in July. RONEN ZVULUN/POOL/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

1. The Maccabiah Games returned to Israel – with a special guest

The 21st Maccabiah Games, also known as the “Jewish Olympics,” took center stage in Israel in July. Originally scheduled for 2021, the quadrennial international Jewish sports competition kicked off at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem with an opening ceremony on July 14 – and U.S. President Joe Biden made an appearance, becoming the first American president to do so. With 10,000 Jewish athletes from around the world convening for two weeks, there were plenty of stories to follow.

2. Ryan Turell began his professional basketball career, with a kippah

Ryan Turell, the former Yeshiva University basketball phenom, took a big step toward his goal of becoming the NBA’s first-ever Orthodox player. Turell was selected by the Motor City Cruise in October’s G League draft, joining the minor-league affiliate of the Detroit Pistons. He became the first known Orthodox player in the league. For Jewish fans in Detroit, Turell’s ascension has provided a boost of excitement and enthusiasm. And for the NBA organization, it created an opportunity to engage with the local Jewish community. The Pistons are offering kosher concessions at the Cruise arena and celebrated Jewish Heritage Night and Hanukkah this month. In the Cruise’s regular season opener Dec. 27, Turell dropped 21 points in only 17 minutes.

3. Sandy Koufax was immortalized at Dodger Stadium

Sandy Koufax’s legacy as the greatest Jewish athlete ever has never been in question. But this past summer, almost 60 years after the Hall of Fame pitcher sat out a World Series game to observe Yom Kippur, Koufax, now 86, was given one of his most meaningful tributes yet: a permanent statue at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers unveiled the Koufax statue – next to one of his former teammates, Jackie Robinson – with a pregame ceremony June 18, three years after the statue was originally announced. The unveiling had been postponed due to the pandemic.
Koufax’s Jewish identity – and his famous Yom Kippur sit-out – were highlighted at the ceremony alongside his many career accolades, which include three Cy Young Awards and three seasons each with more than 300 strikeouts and an earned run average below two.

The new Sandy Koufax statue at Dodger Stadium was unveiled in June. JACOB GURVIS

4. The sports world marked the 50th anniversary of the Munich massacre

This year was the 50th anniversary of the Munich Olympics massacre, the terrorist attack at the 1972 Games that took the lives of 11 Israelis after an hours-long hostage standoff.
After a tense negotiation process, the Israeli families of the victims reached a compensation deal with Germany in time for the official 50th anniversary ceremony. Meanwhile, the Israeli marathon team won gold at the European Championships in Munich, and ESPN produced a documentary about Shaul Ladany, an Olympic racewalker who survived both the Holocaust and the Munich attack. The episode, reported and narrated by Jewish Emmy winner Jeremy Schaap, told the story of the massacre to a mainstream audience on the network’s “E:60” series

5. Sue Bird brought her remarkable career to an end

From her earliest college days to her final professional game in the WNBA, Sue Bird has been among the best of the best in any sport: She is a two-time NCAA champion, a four-time WNBA champion, a five-time Olympic gold medalist and a four-time FIBA World Champion. She is the all-time WNBA leader in assists, games played, minutes played, All-Star appearances and seasons played. Bird announced in June that she would retire after the season, and her Seattle Storm lost in the playoff semifinals to the Las Vegas Aces, ending her 19-year career in the WNBA. Bird, who obtained Israeli citizenship in 2006 in part so she could play for European teams, became a respected entrepreneur, activist and basketball executive even before her playing career ended, setting her up for a successful next chapter.

6. Greg Joseph made multiple historic game-winning field goals

The Minnesota Vikings owe much of their success this season to the right foot of Greg Joseph.

The Jewish kicker – who has engaged with Jewish communities in every city he has played in – has five game-winning field goals this season, including two in a row that each made history.In Week 15, Joseph put a 40-yarder through the uprights to secure a 39-36 Vikings win over the Indianapolis Colts, capping off the largest comeback in NFL history. The Colts had led 33-0. Then in Week 16, Joseph blasted a 61-yarder just as time expired to beat the New York Giants, 27-24. The kick was the longest of Joseph’s career, the longest in Vikings franchise history and likely the longest ever by a Jewish player.

7. Max Fried continued his MLB dominance

With four full seasons in Major League Baseball now under his belt, Atlanta Braves ace Max Fried has solidified himself as one of the sport’s best pitchers. In 2022, the Los Angeles native earned his first All-Star selection while winning his third straight Gold Glove award as the National League’s best defensive pitcher. He finished as the runner-up for NL Cy Young Award, given to the league’s best pitcher, and was named to the Second All-MLB team for the second straight year, by posting a 14-7 record in 2022 (identical to his 2021 output) with an MLB-seventh-best 2.48 earned-run average and 170 strikeouts.

8. Jason Brown performed to ‘Schindler’s List’ at the 2022 Beijing Olympics

The 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing kicked off the year in Jewish sports with flair. More than a dozen Jewish athletes from around the world competed in hockey, skating, snowboarding and more. Perhaps the best known Jewish Olympian was Jason Brown, a figure skater who won a bronze medal at the 2014 Games in Sochi. Brown didn’t medal in 2022, but he did nab a personal best score, while skating to the theme from “Schindler’s List.” Θ

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