November 12, 2008 | Issue 29

Eyes of the World on Israel as the 32nd Shmolympics Begin

article pic Petach Tikva, Israel — [] The eyes of the world turned towards Israel this week as the Thirty-Second Shmolympic Games began. With great fanfare, the Shmolympic torch was lit in Mea Shearim on Tuesday with a havdala candle that was carried by hand for the last two months by a relay team of dark suited rabbinical students since its initial lighting in Boro Park, Brooklyn.

The Shmolympics are rooted in a tradition that dates back to the second century CE, when rabbinical students in Babylon made a pilgrimage to the Galilee every four years to engage in a distractions from Talmud study. Heavily influenced by the Hellenistic Olympic Games, the Shmolympics grew to include all manner of sporting events practiced throughout the yeshiva world. This competitive Jewish event was reintroduced in Lithuania in 1880 and has been a staple of global yeshiva life ever since.

This year’s Shmolympic Games will feature two new additions to the competition that join a retinue of well established Shmolympic sports. The first of these games is the blackberry kvetch, where competitors wearing a full regalia of tallis and tefillin type a series of messages into their Blackberrys which they hold under a table. The competitor that is able to complete the messages in the quickest time, wins.

The second new sport is the bekesheh triathlon, where competitors in full chassidic garb complete a series of errands while walking in the hot Israeli summer sun. This competition replaces the kapputah decathlon, eliminated following the last Shmolympic games after three Shmolympic athletes went insane due to the oppressive heat and stripped to their gatkes in front of the Shmolympic spectators.

These newly introduced sports will be played alongside fan favorites featured in designated yeshiva venues from Bnei Brak in the north to Jerusalem and Betar in the South. Individual sports include: the shas lift, the shtender bender, and the one hundred yard shnorrer dash. Popular team sports include: the shabbos stone throw, the fresser marathon, and basketball played in long pants and a long sleeve shirt with tzitzis worn on the outside.

This year’s competitors come from twenty seven countries, a new record, representing the Ashkenazic and Sephardic worlds, and the Chassidic and Misnagdic communities. Even more impressive is the number of expected spectators. There is a global influx of tourists who will be attending the games in Israel while their wives sit in hotel rooms or go shopping. And for the first time, video footage of the games will be streamed live via cell phone 24/7, replacing the beeper coverage of the last three Shmolympics.

There are several Shmolympians who are heavily favored to win in this year’s games. One is Yossie Golderberger, 21, from Skvertown, who is widely expected to take the gold at the hat toss in the shtreimel division after setting a world record during the North American Regionals in Williamsburg last year. Another favorite is Zisha Weinstein, 26, of Jerusalem, who has won the mikvah dive freestyle during the last two Shmolympics, and is trying to achieve a record three wins in a row.

In a statement released to coincide with the lighting of the Shmolypic torch, Rabbi Ephrayim Koufax, the International Chairman of the Global Shmolympic Committee, and himself a bronze medal winner in the 1972 Shmolympics, summed up the goal of the Shmolympics. “We aim to achieve international understanding across the yeshiva world,” Rabbi Koufax said. “We are united as a global community through narishkeit, and this commonality is much stronger than any of our differences.”


Pencil Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein is a part time free-lance journalist and the full time Rosheshiva (dean) of Yeshiva Chipass Emmess. His most recent book is a commentary on the Book of Psalms using only consonants. He may be reached by e-mail an, through his Yeshiva's blog at:, or at his Yeshiva’s website at


comment Retired Yid said...

Will there be an underage scandal?

November 13, 2008 at 12:02 a.m.

comment J said...

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January 28, 2009 at midnight

comment K said...

J, It's a place for people to waste time in Touro College.

January 28, 2009 at 12:04 a.m.

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