Tag Archives: New Jersey

Jew of the Week: Aulcie Perry

Aulcie Perry with Israeli kids at his summer camp

Aulcie Perry (b. 1950) was born in New Jersey and went to university in Florida on a basketball scholarship. Between 1974 and 1976, Perry played for a number of professional basketball teams, and was signed by the New York Knicks at one point. After being discovered by an Israeli scout, Perry signed with Maccabi Tel Aviv and moved to the Holy Land. In his first year, he led Maccabi to its first Euro Cup championship. He would go on to play nine seasons with Maccabi, helping them win six Israeli Cups and two Euro Cups. Meanwhile, Perry fell in love with Israel and the Jewish people, and decided to formally convert. He took on the new name Elisha ben Avraham. Unfortunately, Perry got into some drug troubles and would be arrested in New York. He spent several years in prison before returning to Israel. Perry worked hard to clean up his image and become a positive role model. To this day, he sponsors a basketball camp for Israeli kids, and coaches a Maccabi Tel Aviv youth team. The rest of the time he manages a Burger Ranch (Israel’s McDonald’s). Perry is credited with sparking a basketball craze in Israel, and making the sport popular there. He also paved the way for many future basketball stars to sign with Israeli teams, including Anthony Parker and Amar’e Stoudemire in recent years. The term “Aulcie Perry” is still an Israeli slang for a very tall person.

Simchat Torah/Shemini Atzeret Begins Tonight! Chag Sameach!

Words of the Week

When G-d desired to create man, Truth said: “He should not be created, for he will be full of lies.” Kindness said: “He should be created, for he will be full of kindness.”
– Midrash Rabbah, Beresheet 8:5

Jews of the Week: Naomi Kutin & Scot Mendelson

The World’s Strongest People

Naomi Kutin, "Supergirl" (courtesy: www.jewpop.com)

Naomi Kutin, “Supergirl”
(courtesy: www.jewpop.com)

Naomi Kutin (b. 2001) was born in New Jersey to a Modern Orthodox family. Her father is a former professional weightlifter (with a number of records under his belt), and introduced his daughter to the sport when she was just eight years old after noting her incredible strength. A few months later, Naomi went to her first competition, and broke a national record. At age 10, she set a world record in women’s powerlifting, breaking an earlier record set by a 44-year old woman! Two years later, she squatted over 231 pounds to set a new women’s world record, despite being just 12 years old. She has earned the nickname “supergirl”, and is often described as the world’s strongest young lady. Naomi doesn’t let her weightlifting get in the way of religious observance; she still goes to an Orthodox school and never competes on Shabbat.

Scot Mendelson (courtesy: Powerlifting USA)

Scot Mendelson
(courtesy: Powerlifting USA)

Meanwhile, the world’s greatest bench-presser is also Jewish, Brooklyn-born Scot Mendelson (b. 1969). Growing up playing sports, Mendelson progressed from ball games to wrestling, boxing, bodybuilding, and finally powerlifting. In 2003, he set the all-time world record (regardless of weight class) by bench pressing 713 pounds. All in all, he has broken over 60 records in his career, winning four World Championships. He currently resides in California, where he operates a gym, and also runs a wellness centre together with actor Eric Roberts.

Words of the Week

Those who are born are destined to die, and those who die are destined to live again.
– Pirkei Avot 4:22

Jew of the Week: Steven Spielberg

The Greatest Film Director of All Time

Steven Spielberg

Steven Spielberg

Steven Allan Spielberg (b. 1946) was born to an Orthodox Jewish family in Cincinnati, and grew up in New Jersey and Arizona. As a twelve year old boy scout trying to get a photography merit badge, his photo camera broke so he made a short film with his father’s video camera instead. It sparked a life-long passion for film. The following year he made a 40-minute war flick that won a prize, and at 16, made his first full length sci-fi movie, which made $1 in profit. After high school, Spielberg studied film, then got a job at Universal Studios as an unpaid and uncredited intern, working seven days a week in the editing department. During this time, he put together a 26-minute film. A Universal exec saw it and immediately signed Spielberg to a long-term contract, making him the youngest director to do so. He first made 4 TV films, then was offered the chance at Jaws (which had so many production issues it almost never made it). Jaws won 3 Academy Awards and set a box-office record, propelling Spielberg to huge fame. Spielberg continued to make big hits that smashed box-office records, winning two Best Director awards and having his films earn a total of 33 Oscars. Together with two other Jews, Spielberg founded his own studio, DreamWorks, most famous for producing animated hits like Shrek, Antz, and The Prince of Egypt. Spielberg has also participated in many philanthropic causes, including aid to Israel (for which the Arab League voted to boycott his films in 2007). Most notably, he founded the Survivors of the Shoah Foundation to record video testimonies of the Holocaust, lest it be forgotten or denied. Over 52,000 interviews have been conducted in 56 countries and 32 languages. Spielberg was made an honorary Knight of the Order of the British Empire, as well as a knight of the French Légion d’honneur. He has been voted the greatest director of all time, listed as the most influential figure in the film industry, and included by TIME Magazine in their list of 100 Most Important People of the Century.

Words of the Week

Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.
– William Shakespeare