“Hava Nagila” Propels Jewish Gymnast Aly Raisman to Olympic Finals

“Hava Nagila” Propels Jewish Gymnast Aly Raisman to Olympic Finals

This week, 18-year-old Jewish gymnast Alexandra Raisman bypassed celebrity frontrunner Jordyn Wieber to the Olympic gymnastics finals by winning first place among the 82 competitors in the floor exercises competition. The song that accompanied her surprising victory was Hava Nagila (video below). Raisman, who received the Pearl D. Mazor Outstanding Female Jewish High School Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award, said before the Olympics that she was proud that she would be using the Jewish song. “I’m Jewish,” she explained “so I thought it would be really nice to use Hava Nagila. And it’s a song the whole crowd can clap to…All of them clapping is an amazing feeling and it gives me a kind of extra boost of confidence and energy. And I just really like the music a lot.” Raisman and her parents belong to the “Bayt Ha’avoda” Congregation in Newton, Massachusetts, and rumor has it that she says “Shema Yisrael” before every single competition. It brought tears to my eyes to watch this video and to see this young Jewish woman’s Jewish pride! Mazal tov Aly, and good luck at the finals!!

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This funny video of Aly Raisman’s parents bouncing in their seats as they watch her uneven bars routine has gone viral over the past few days, and a lot of people out there are using this video as an opportunity to make fun of Aly’s mom and “over-anxious” JewishMOMs in general. But I don’t think that’s fair. What mother wouldn’t be “over-anxious” if her daughter was flipping around and flying around in the air like that?! My favorite part is when the father yells at the end:)
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14 comments

  1. chaya rivka

    During this 2012 Olympics many Jews wanted to remember the tragedy in Munich when 11 Jewish athletes were murdered. At that same Olympics, Mark Spitz, a great Jewish swimmer out-ranked everyone with his achievements and well-deserved gold medals. And now that those in charge of the Olympics refuse to have one minute of silence for the Munich 11, Aly Raisman, a Jewish young lady from the USA wowed audience with her phenomenal gymnastics.

    It only proves that there are Amalekites who try to eradicate the Jewish people, but we only turn around and show how excellent we are. Bravo for all the athletes.

  2. Jenny my dear friend,

    This brings tears to my eyes, but for a different reason. How sad to see a beautiful bat Melech dancing nearly undressed in front of the whole world.

    • JewishMom

      dear elana, of course you are right.

      I just think, as someone who once would have also danced in front of the world in a leotard, that considering where she is coming from, it is extremely impressive and even moving to see that she has such a strong pintelle yid, such pride in being Jewish.

      I spent a year or two on my school’s gymnastics team (for absolute beginners), and the songs I used for my floor routines were Eye of the Tiger and something from the Nutcracker. I would have been incredibly embarrassed to have Jewish music playing!

      So seeing this girl, who comes from a similar Jewish background as me, yet is so proud to have hava nagila playing in the background, I think that is really, really something.

      • dear jenny
        thanks so much for your thoughtful response to your reader. i dont think Hashem wants the negativity that flowed from your reader. would that such energy be directed toward understanding and celebration of this woman’s gifts and pride.
        ~mws

      • i loved this reply, chana jenny!
        you are os thoughtful, thanks!

  3. I’m not much into the Olympics but I have to admit that I’m proud of Aly. She is sending a strong positive message to countless jews around the world who idolize gold medalists. Her gesture delivers a message in a language they can understand.
    Imagine… she labored her whole life to reach the pinnacle of worldly success and when she got there, she used that moment to blast the world with Jewish pride and feeling.
    Yashar koach Aly. Keep up your good work and I hope to meet you soon in Jerusalem.

  4. I don’t think the Elana’s comment about her tears is coming from a negative space. Being part of the Olympics in any way is not an appropriate goal for a Jewish son or daughter. We have all become so used to the surrounding culture that we don’t realize how much it has affected our outlook. This is not what the goal that the Macabees fought for and earned the miracle of the 8 days of light. Yes, she is proud of her heritage which is good, talented as a gymnast which is a demanding sport, but I would not my daughters to view this as a praiseworthy accomplishment. Does this inspire any Jews watching to come closer to Hashem, the Torah, or is it a form of misplaced Jewish pride, that a Jew can outperform goyim in a non-Jewish arena?

  5. I think it’s an absolutely beautiful thing to use not only the instruments of our minds that Hashem gave us but also to tune and perfect the use of these amazing bodies that are also our inheritance from our Creator. As long as a girl does not neglect her mind or middos, I think it IS praiseworthy that she is accomplished physically.

  6. I am also inspired by Aly and hope that she eventually returns to her heritage even more. Of course we are not encouraging our daughters to pursue this kind of thing, but I do think it is a great lesson for our kids’ spoiled and lazy generation to learn: work super hard at something and you will accomplish! We want the gold medal in middos and avodah H!

  7. We should all be doing our best with the tools Hashem gave us: when Aly was given a stage, she used it to celebrate her Jewishness. Dear commenters who see only the flip side,, what are you doing with YOUR stage? We know the eternal value of judging another favorably, so let’s help Aly with some positive energy. Like Chana said, a Pintele yid like that won’t give up easily….

  8. Karen Sommer Shalett

    While I understand many voices here believe that the lack of modesty is a shonda, so forgive me, but I am extremely excited to show my young boys this exciting, dynamic show of strength that a woman has put forth–all while embracing her identity, which is very important for Jewish children, perhaps more so outside the orthodox movement.

  9. Talk about culture gap. When I was growing up in America, Hava Nagila was the song that all Jews, including the unaffiliated, knew. I remember singing and dancing to it with senior citizens of all backgrounds, as a kid in America. I told my Israeli daughters (who know countless songs in Hebrew)about this clip and they had never heard of the song!

  10. kadiesha

    I am not jewish, but I thought it was sweet that she embrace her roots and is proud of what she is….Also I see nothing wrong with her parents reactions….they are just anxious as any parent who love their child would be..it just so happened that they are more expressive that some would be….absolutely fine!good for her and them! proud parents as they should be!

  11. Aly made us proud in London! Yay Aly! As I watched, the hava nagila music maid me so happy.

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