Salita packs a punch at White House reception

Young Jewish boxing icon among Jewish greats at White House reception.

June 6, 2010 05:27
2 minute read.
Dmitry Salita and Sandy Koufax

Dmitry Salita and Sandy Koufax 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Late last month President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama invited the crème de la crème of American Jews to the first ever celebration of Jewish Heritage Month at the White House. May was declared Jewish Heritage Month by President George W. Bush in 2006, but this is the first time the White House has held a reception to celebrate it.

Among the youngest of those honored was boxing icon Dmitriy Salita who said he felt privileged to be included among a group of two hundred of the elite in the worlds of the arts, politics, entertainment, athletics and academics. The Brooklyn-based prizefighter who came from Odessa at the age of nine has distinguished himself not just as a great sports figure but as a champion humanitarian, good-will ambassador, and role model for young people.

The Dmitriy Salita Youth Center opening in Brighton Beach will serve as a beacon for young immigrants, helping them assimilate as Americans and also preparing those who choose, to learn about Israel.

“It was awesome meeting such a great person like Sandy Koufax,” said Salita.

It seemed that Dmitriy was equally impressed with Koufax’s career as a great pitcher and for the fact that he would not pitch in the World Series on Yom Kippur – this from an idealistic young man who has steadfastly refused to fight on Shabbat even if a world title was at stake.

In his remarks to the guests, President Obama drew quite a few laughs when he singled out Koufax. “This is a pretty fancy group here, a pretty distinguished group. We’ve got senators and representatives. We’ve got Supreme Court justices and successful entrepreneurs, rabbinical scholars, Olympic athletes – and Sandy Koufax. Sandy and I actually have something in common – we are both lefties. He can’t pitch on Yom Kippur; I can’t pitch – period.”

Besides Salita and Koufax, also honored from the sports world was former NFL offensive lineman, Dallas Cowboy super bowl champion Alan “Shlomo” Viengrad.

Salita, no newcomer to White House invitations, having twice previously been invited by former President George Bush, says that he was also honored to meet and speak with Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan and Rabbi Levi Shemtov, Director of American Friends of Lubavitch in Washington, D.C.

The celebratory opening of the Ezra USA Dmitriy Salita Youth Center will take place on Sunday in Brooklyn, New York. Several distinguished guests from Israel – including Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Deputy Foreign Minister and former Ambassador to the US Danny Ayalon – are expected to be on hand.

The DS Center is the latest breakthrough for Ezra USA, an organization that has enjoyed unparalleled success through its social and educational programming that strengthens Jewish identity and connects young Russian-speaking Jews to Israel.

The DS Center will serve as the hub of all Ezra USA activity in New York and as a welcoming space for young Russian-speaking Jews.

In other boxing news, defending super welterweight world champion Yuri Foreman and three-time champion Miguel Cotto took to the ring on Saturday night for their title bout at Yankee Stadium.

The feature bout was scheduled to begin at about 10:30 p.m. to give Foreman, who is an Orthodox Jew, and his legion of fans plenty of time after Shabbat ended. to get to the one-year-old baseball cathedral in the Bronx.

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