Tag Archives: Paralympics

Jews of the Week: Spitz, Torres, Lezak & Leibovitch

World’s Best Swimmers

Mark Spitz

Mark Spitz – Greatest Olympian

Jews play an illustrious role in swimming history. One of the early greats was California Jew Mark Spitz, who began his career at the 1965 Maccabiah Games, winning 4 gold medals. The 1972 Munich Olympics were his shining moment, winning an incredible 7 gold medals while setting 7 new records. This added to the 2 gold medals he’d already won in the ’68 Olympics. Mark Spitz was famously the only one to swim with a mustache (which would later inspire Michael Phelps). He has been voted “Athlete of the Century” and “Greatest Olympian”. Meanwhile, Dara Torres is considered the greatest female swimmer in American history. She’s competed in 5 Olympic Games and has won a staggering 12 Olympic medals. In Beijing 2008, Torres set the record for being the oldest swimmer in Olympic history. She still managed to win 3 silver medals. Born to a Jewish father, Dara converted to Judaism officially before marrying Israeli surgeon Itzhak Shasha.

Keren Leibovitch

Keren Leibovitch

The 2008 Olympics also saw Jason Lezak win a breathtaking relay, ironically earning Michael Phelps an 8th gold medal and thus breaking Mark Spitz’s long-time record. Like Spitz, Lezak is a Jew from California who captains the US swim team and has 7 Olympic medals under his belt. Lastly, and most heroically, is Keren Leibovitch. While serving in the IDF, she had an accident that rendered her legs 90% paralyzed. She became a Paralympic swimmer, winning 4 golds, 2 silvers and a bronze medal over her career, plus 3 World Championships and 3 world records. She has the distinction of being the greatest Israeli Paralympian of all time.

Words of the Week

A single action is better than a thousand groans.
– Rabbi Sholom DovBer of Lubavitch (1860-1920)