Foreman gains respect even in losing title

Yuri Foreman may have lost his first title defense, but the Orthodox Jewish boxer apparently gained plenty of respect on a balmy evening in Yankee Stadium.

Foreman continued to fight through what he called “sharp pain” in his knee in the last three rounds of his World Boxing Association super-welterweight championship bout against three-time champion Miguel Cotto late Saturday night in the Bronx.

The 29-year-old rabbinical student, now living in Brooklyn via Haifa, Israel, and his native Belarus, slipped several times during the bout, wrenching his right knee in the seventh round.

Foreman fought on before referee Arthur Mercante Jr. stopped the match 42 seconds into the ninth round following a hard Cotto right to Foreman’s midsection. Mercante a round earlier had refused to halt the proceedings even though Foreman’s corner had thrown in the towel.

The defeat could have potentially served as a blow to the growing number of fans who rallied behind Foreman and the chance to hail a Jewish boxing champ for the first time in more than half a century. But judging from comments from Foreman loyalists after the fight, his appeal may grow thanks to his willingness to keep on fighting despite the injury.

Even Cotto’s fans were impressed.

“I respect him because he tried to fight Cotto—key word tried,” said Hector Aponte, a Hispanic man from the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, who despite to take home an Israeli flag out of respect for the effort. “The thing you got to respect is even when his leg went out, he still fought.”

Speaking of the Israeli flag he was carrying, Aponte added, “I’ll go and hang it on my wall next to my Puerto Rican boxing gloves.”

Jerry Kahn, a comedian and an Orthodox Jew, echoed Aponte.

“He makes all of us proud,” Kahn said. “He’s a very classy guy.”

Though he was mostly stripped of his trademark ability to move from side to side and is not known for his power—the formerly unbeaten Foreman only had eight knockdowns among his 28 victories—he tried to persevere against the stalking Cotto.

“I’m a world champion—now a former world champion—and you don’t just quit,” Foreman said in the ring after the fight. “A world champion needs to keep on fighting.”

Foreman entered the canopied ring to the sound of the shofar and a recording of the late Lubavitcher rebbe singing—and as a 2-1 underdog. He also was the second choice of the crowd of 20,273. Puerto Rican flags for Cotto prevailed over the Israeli pennants for Foreman, and chants of “Cotto, Cotto” were offered several times.

“Obviously you’re going to have 75 percent Puerto Rican fans,” said David Locshin, an Orthodox Jew. “But we’re louder in essence.”

Cotto, now 35-2 with 28 knockouts, was the aggressor throughout the fight and was well ahead on all three scorecards when the bout was stopped. Foreman prevailed only in the fourth round, winning 10-9 on each card, notably with a solid left-right combination. But he also slipped for the first time in that three-minute session.

His face cut and bruised, Foreman told JTA prior to the post-fight news conference that he was “emotionally upset” and that he had “a lot of supporters” in the crowd. Well-wishers speaking Hebrew offered their consolation.

At the news conference, he said the leg injury could be traced back to when he was 15 years old and living in Israel, when he fell off his bike. Foreman wears a brace to protect the knee and had one on for the Cotto fight.

The extent of the injury was not known early in the week. The doctor at ringside did not evaluate the knee during the bout.

Foreman said the knee problem made it problematic “to sit on my punches. I could not use all of my power.”

Grier said he tossed in the towel because he feared for his fighter’s safety.

“You can’t put him in front of a puncher like Cotto without legs,” the trainer said at the news conference.

Mercante said he refused the stoppage because the fighters were in the middle of a good exchange and did not believe it was necessary. Asked by the ref if he wanted to continue, Foreman said he did.

“That kid would die in there before he quits,” Grier said.

Fighting at Yankee Stadium, which was having its first boxing card since Muhammad Ali fought Ken Norton in 1976, was “awesome,” Foreman said.

Along with “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the national anthems of Puerto Rico and Israel were sung prior to the bout.

“There were so many Israeli flags, and the Puerto Rican flags were great,” Foreman said, adding that the scene offered “great adrenaline.”

After the bout, one man may have summed up what many were thinking.

“I’ll say this for Foreman: He’s got balls.”

(JTA Managing Editor Uriel Heilman contributed to this report.)

Noa Back With New Album, Daughter

Renowned recording artist Noa, known as Achinoam Nini in Israel, is currently at home basking in the glory of her latest creation.

And no, it’s not a new album.

It’s her daughter, Enéa. “It means ‘her eyes’ in Hebrew,” says Noa, who has written a song with the same title.

“My wish for her is that she sees the world always through her own eyes, and that they be eyes of love and beauty.”

Born on Aug. 12, Enéa is Noa’s second child. Her son, Ayehli, is now 3. This latest birth, says Noa, was “natural, short and painful, but that’s the way it goes.”

“My daughter is healthy and beautiful,” she says. “But I’m far from objective. And she doesn’t look anything like me. In fact, she looks like something new … not anybody’s photocopy, as well she should.”

Noa has had a busy year. She performed up until her eighth month, but admits, “Pregnancy is bound to slow you down at some point. I did not do much songwriting because creating life took up all my energy.”

Nevertheless, having children clearly agrees with her. Noa says her last album was “deeply inspired by my first child. His arrival changed my life.”

Noa considers that album, “Now,” to be her best. Her latest European tour was met with great success, particularly in Spain and Italy.

“The highlights for me were a performance in the Euro-League basketball championships, broadcast to millions throughout Europe,” she says. “That, and a live event performed in front of 400,000 people in Rome titled, ‘We Are the Future,’ organized by Quincy Jones as a follow up to ‘We Are the World.'”

The event was designed to raise funds for children who are victims of war. It was also broadcast on MTV and VHI to millions of viewers worldwide.

“I did both those performances in my seventh month of pregnancy with a big belly,” she states proudly.

And although her children have clearly inspired a great deal of her work, Noa says she’s not too keen with the idea of them following in her footsteps.

“I hope my children will love and enjoy music,” she says. “But I would not wish them a musician’s life, especially not the way the world and the music business look today. They both stink,” she states matter-of-factly.

“But,” she adds, “if they want it badly, nothing’s going to stop them, and I will always encourage them to follow their heart. I can only wish them happiness.”

In the meantime, barely a month after her daughter’s birth, Noa is back writing songs again.

“I’m really looking forward to the challenges of a new project, a new album and a tour with my newly expanded family,” she says, adding that she plans to take her kids on the road as much as possible.

Together with Gil Dor, she is currently working on songs for a new album, with several tours planned later this year. “However, we’ll mostly be writing and recording,” she says. “The year 2006 will be more of a touring year.”

But American fans won’t have to wait till then to see Noa perform. From Nov. 25 to Dec. 8, Noa will be touring the United States. She will perform at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza’s Fred Kavli Theatre on Nov. 28, presented by Temple Beth Haverim and Jewish Family of Conejo Simi and West Valley.

“I want to warmly invite all my American fans to come and see us live, to listen to the songs and really enjoy themselves,” she says. “We invest our souls into the music and the lyrics, which,” she is quick to point out, “are mostly in English.”

“I hope [our songs] will resonate with and possibly even bring hope and light to as many people as possible.”

Writing, recording, touring. It’s a punishing schedule for a mother with two small children. But her response to the inevitable question of how she manages to juggle her career with motherhood is simple.

“It’s the hardest thing in the world,” she admits. “I do it with very little sleep and with more love than you can imagine.”

The concert by Noa will be on Nov. 28, 7:30 p.m. $39-$203. Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks. Tickets can be purchased at the Civic Arts Plaza box office in person or by calling Ticketmaster at (213) 480-3232. For more information about Noa, visit

What’s in a Name?

When Jews come across the biblical name for God — spelled yod-hay-vav-hay in Hebrew — custom teaches us to substitute the term Adonai ("my Lord"), for according to Jewish tradition those letters are the unpronounceable name of God. A rabbi professor of mine used to elicit nervous laughter from his students by attempting to pronounce yod-hay-vav-hay, attempting to speak the "unspeakable." His seemingly irreverent effort served a good purpose — it got us thinking about the power of names and naming.

Although that name for God appears often in the Book of Genesis, it is not discussed until the Book of Exodus — until this Torah portion, Vaera, when God says to Moses: "I appeared to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as El Shaddai, but I did not make Myself known to them by My name yod-hay-vav-hay" (Exodus 6:3).

Historians tell us that it wasn’t until the Second Temple period (around 2,000 years ago) that Jews stopped pronouncing yod-hay-vav-hay. Historians also tell us that the Masoretes, those scholars who standardized our Torah and added vowels, were the ones who added the vowels for Adonai to the letters yod-hay-vav-hay in order to remind us to substitute Adonai.

But how did God intend us to pronounce yod-hay-vav-hay? In these opening chapters of the Book of Shemot (meaning "names"), when God first introduces this name to Moses, God does not forbid pronouncing yod-hay-vav-hay, and there is no suggestion to pronounce it Adonai.

The impulse to make yod-hay-vav-hay something other than a shem (a name), particularly the impulse to turn it into a title — and as gender-specific a title as Adonai — comes neither from the text nor from God. Like so many other patriarchal and hierarchical labels for God, such as King and Father, the title Adonai comes from the worshippers rather than from the Worshipped.

In this week’s portion, Vaera, and in last week’s Parashat Shemot, as God establishes relationships with Moses, with the enslaved Israelites and with the Egyptians, we hear God use different names (yod-hay-vav-hay; eheyeh asher eheyeh, "I will be what I will be," Exodus 3:14; El Shaddai) at different times to different people. In so doing, God gives us permission to continue this tradition of describing and naming God, according to our comprehension, based on our own experience.

Jewish theologian Judith Plaskow, in "Standing Again at Sinai" ( Harper San Francisco, 1991), points out that we seekers of today are heirs of a long heritage. All the metaphors and symbols that Judaism has for God have come from "human attempts to speak of the experience of God who stands at the center of Jewish life. They emerge out of the Godwrestling of our ancestors and represent their efforts to name and comprehend the God they knew as with them on a long and various journey…. Traditional symbols for God thus … provide models of a process, which we ourselves continue in seeking images of God that will be adequate for our own time."

As we do so, let’s keep in mind the power of language, the tremendous role it plays in shaping our reality. It’s like wearing glasses: When I put on my glasses, I can see the world better, but the world hasn’t changed because I put on my glasses. What changes is the way I see the world; what changes is my relationship to the world. Similarly, calling God by different names and titles doesn’t change God, it changes the way we see God, and it deepens our relationship. Consider the palpable changes in a relationship marked by descriptions, titles, terms of endearment: "You are a sweetheart," "you are my sweetheart," "Sweetheart, I want to spend the rest of my life with you." What changes is your perception; what changes is your relationship.

However carefully you make your way along this "Appellation Trail," it’s not an easy one to traverse, for it is overgrown with beliefs and superstitions, emotions and politics. As Judaism continues to evolve, we can count on God to evolve with us. As we help keep Judaism vital, living, growing, so will God continue to keep the promise made to Moses so long ago to be always in process, always unpredictable: "I will be who I will be." If we were indeed created b’tselim Elokim, in God’s image, then let God’s own changing presentations of self in Torah be an invitation to remember that in any ongoing relationship — with God or with our children, with one another or with one’s self — we ought to welcome every opportunity to name ourselves and speak our truths.

Lisa Edwards is rabbi at Beth Chayim Chadashim — House of New Life — in Los Angeles.