Original Article Published on The Jerusalem Post, Jerusalem Post Children’s Articles

Ari Zivitovsky is a little like an ancient explorer. The scientist rabbi travels the world looking for different kosher animals. Zivitovsky has come head to head with grasshoppers, guinea fowl, buffalo even giraffes!

Zivitovsky and his childhood friend, Rabbi Ari Greenspan, are both Americans who came to live in Israel. They are both rabbis and doctors. Lots of information has been lost about which animals are kosher, so these guys are on a mission to find the secrets of weird and crazy kosher animals! A friend came to the two Ari‛s and asked them if a kosher pheasant could be prepared. Neither of them was sure, since the Torah tells us about the 24 birds that are not kosher, but since those times, many more species of birds have been discovered! The rabbi doctors did lots of research and Rabbi Yosef Kafich taught them that pheasant is kosher, and in his Yemenite family, they have been eating kosher pheasant for centuries!

Zivitovsky and Greenspan have travelled the word together in search of exotic kosher animals. They went to Turkey in search of the Talmudic Shiboota fish, to Cyprus, in search of a special grasshopper that is considered kosher, and recently they were called to an animal park in Israel to research giraffes. Giraffes are considered kosher. The reason we don’t eat them is because giraffes are so strong that they could kill a lion with one kick. It would be very hard for a shochet to try and hold them down!

Since 2002, Zivitovsky and Greenspan have been holding special dinner parties, where people can come try all sorts of newfound kosher animal dishes, including pigeon, sparrow, water buffalo, fallow deer, red deer, Muscovy duck, partridge and pheasant. And for dessert? Grasshoppers! The two Ari’s have certainly shown us that there is more to keeping kosher than eating lots of chicken!

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Original Article Published on The Jerusalem Post, Jerusalem Post Children’s Articles

The US was awash with tennis champions during the US Open and the many lead-up competitions that preceded it. Dash American correspondent Howard Blas had the opportunity to catch up with two of Israel’s leading tennis players, Shahar Peer and Dudi Sela during the competition.

Tennis is one of the world’s leading international sports. Players and fans from all around the world converge upon Roland Garros (French Open), Wimbledon (Wimbledon), Melbourne Park (Australian Open) and Flushing Meadows (US Open) to see the world’s best tough it out game after game, set after set, in impossible heat, in order to bring home the trophy, the crown of the tennis world.

Though they haven’t won a grand slam tournament yet, Israeli tennis stars Shahar Peer and Dudi Sela are on the rise, and have captured the hearts of Israeli and Jewish tennis fans across the globe. Earlier in 2009, Shahar Pe’er made headlines around the world when she was denied a visa for Dubai in order to compete in the Dubai Tennis Championships, only because she was Israeli. Also earlier in the year, Dudi Sela put Israel squarely on the tennis map during the Davis Cup quarter final men’s singles match, which was played at the Nokia Stadium in Tel Aviv. To the home crowd’s delight, Sela knocked over Russian tennis giant Mikhail Youzhny to get to the semifinals. D’ash American correspondent, Howard Blas, had the opportunity to catch up with Israel’s tennis stars during the Pilot Pen, a US open warm-up. This month we are featuring Shahar Peer and next month we will be featuring Dudi Sela.

Shahar Peer is one of the highest ranked women’s tennis players in Israel’s history. She and Anna Smashnova, another Israeli tennis champion, have each reached 15th in the world. The 22 year old Peer was born in Jerusalem and when she is not playing tennis around the world, lives in Maccabim. She enjoys reading and romance movies! She has an older brother Shlomi, who is 29 and an older sister, Shani, who is 26. Her mother, Aliza, is a retired sports teacher and her father, Dovik, is CEO of a software company. She comes from an athletic family. Her father was an award winning swimmer and her mother was a champion sprinter. D”ash reporter Howard Blas briefly met Peer at the Pilot Pen, a tennis tournament in New Haven, Connecticut, which serves as a warm up to the U.S. Open.

How many times have you played in the US Open? What is your current ATP ranking? This is my fifth time playing in the U.S. Open (first time was 2005). I am currently ranked 64th in the world.

Do you enjoy playing overseas? never play in Israel. There are no tournaments in Israel! (The only time I play in Israel is in the nationals). So I am always playing tennis overseas it is my life, my job, my career. I enjoy traveling. It is part of what I do.

What’s your greatest challenge as an athlete? It is not so hard being an athlete. I enjoy what I do. I guess the greatest challenge is playing well.

What’s your greatest challenge as an Israeli athlete? It is not so challenging being an Israeli athlete. I am proud of Israel and I enjoy representing Israel.

When competing overseas, do you find a lot of Israelis/Jews come to support you? Yes, especially places like New York at the U.S. Open and Melbourne at the Australian Open. Israelis and Jews come out to cheer and show support.

How does Israel’s prowess on the Tennis court affect public opinion about Israel, in your opinion? I am not sure what people think about Israel or about Israeli tennis. I hope it is positive. I hope they are happy watching Israelis playing the sport.

Can you tell our readers about your army service? Was it a tough decision to do it since you are a professional athlete? Or was it important simply because you are Israeli? Going in to the army is natural. Everyone does it for their country. I am happy I did it. I did what I had to do for my country.

You’ve had a couple of interesting, somewhat high profile incidents in the past few years. First, what was it like teaming up with Indian Sania Mirza for doubles and what was your reaction to playing with a Muslim player? We were friends before we played together and we are still good friends. We don’t involve any politics on the court.

How do you feel now looking back on the Dubai incident in February? How did it feel to have the support of Venus Williams and other players? Note: Peer was prevented from playing at the Dubai Tennis Championships in the United Arab Emirates since she was denied visa. Many players condemned this action and some sponsors pulled out. The tournament organizers were also forced to pay major fines for this action. Israeli tennis player Andy Ram was given a visa for the same tournament the following week. It was not a happy thing. I was not happy about it. I was happy that other players came out and supported me. I was especially proud of Andy Roddick.

If you had a message for all of your fans out there, Israeli, Jewish or otherwise, what would it be? Work hard and enjoy what you are doing.

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Original Article Published on The Jerusalem Post

Ari Zivitovsky is a little like Indiana Jones. But the scientist rabbi is not in search of The Ark of the Covenant; instead, he travels the world looking for kosher animals. Zivitovsky and his partner, Rabbi Ari Greenspan, have come head to head with some incredible and exotic creatures, some of which you may have never even heard of.

Zivitovsky has a PhD in biomedical engineering and is a senior lecturer in brain science at Bar Ilan University. Greenspan is a practicing dentist in Jerusalem.

Zivitovsky and Greenspan met as children in New York and have been going on Jewish adventures together ever since. When they were studying together as teenagers, a slaughterer came to their yeshiva to demonstrate kaparot. The two teenagers were interested in seeing what the insides of a bird looked like. The shochet saw their interest and encouraged them to become shochtim. So they did.

The two newly certified shochtim found themselves asking lots of kosher questions. So they traveled the world in search of answers.

The two men have traveled to four continents on their kosher animal quest. They have been to Turkey in search of the Talmudic Shiboota fish, they have been to Cyprus in search of grasshoppers, and most recently, researched giraffes here in Israel. When a giraffe died in a zoo in Ramat Gan, Zivitovsky was given permission to dissect the dead giraffe to further his knowledge of kashrut. Yes, a giraffe is kosher. It chews its cud, has cloven hooves and it only eats plants. These traits make it a kosher animal. So then, one might ask why we can’t buy giraffes at our local meat market. Zivitovsky explains that they are not endangered, they have no natural enemies, and no one hunts them, so in many ways they are an ideal animal to eat. However, the problem is that giraffes are so strong they could kill an adult lion with one kick. You would need to restrain it in order to kill it in the kosher way. Could you imagine having to restrain a giraffe and then climbing three meters in order to slaughter it? The conclusion therefore is that it is not practical to kill giraffes for food.

What do Zivitovsky and Greenspan do with all of their kosher knowledge? Since 2002, they have been hosting a series of very unique dinner parties, where they introduce weird kosher foods to the diner participants. At the first dinner the menu included pigeon, sparrow, water buffalo, fallow deer and red deer, muscovy duck, partridge and pheasant. “Nearly one hundred people filled the restaurant to hear over two hours of lectures and eat a thirteen course meal,” says Zivitovsky. “Had I been cooking, I would have just cooked all thirteen types of birds in one big pot. But we found a master chef, Moshe Basson, who prepared each one differently.”

And for dessert? Grasshoppers! I was shocked that ten to fifteen percent of the participants actually tried them, said Zivitovsky.

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Freelance writer Howard Blasreports on the Pilot Pen Tennis Tournie in New Haven – from a Jewish perspective. The tournament was still in full swing as the Ledger went to press.

Ezra Academy makes a night of it
Ezra Academy of Woodbridge joined thousands of fans at the Pilot Pen Tennis tournament that kicked off at the Connecticut Tennis Center at Yale on August 23 and will run through August 29. According to Head of School, Rabbi Amanda Brodie, “This year at Ezra, we are highlighting health and fitness for life. Ezra parents, Jody Ellant and Howard Reiter, responded to an offer for $1 Pilot Pen tickets and purchased 180 for the evening session on Monday, August 24, which they made available to the Ezra community.” Ellant notes, “We, as a family, have attended the Pilot Pen tournament since its inception. The Pilot Pen tournament is a fabulous opportunity to see world class athletes perform right here in our community. It is a wonderful way to begin the school year.”

Israelis in the Pilot Pen Draw…almost
Ezra also came out to celebrate an historic year for Israel’s tennis professionals. Israel’s Dudi Sela, currently ranked 34th in the world, was invited to play in the Pilot Pen but pulled out after dropping out of last week’s Western and Southern Financial Group tournament in Cincinnati, Oh. The 24-year old Sela, who played in last year’s Pilot Pen, aggravated a groin injury and dropped out in the second set of his first round match. He hopes to recover in time for the upcoming U.S. Open in New York. 

Shahar Peer, ranked 58th in the world, and recovering from a stress fracture earlier in the summer, came to New Haven after reaching the third round of the Rogers Cup in Toronto. Peer was not given an automatic invitation to the tournament; such invitations were only issued to the top 44 ranked females. The 22-year old Peer played late in the afternoon of August 21 versus Italy’s Tathiana Garbin in the first round of the qualifiers. She was down 7-5, 2-2 in Friday’s qualifying match before a rainstorm suspended the match. Several hours later, and after eight ball kids used high powered blowers to dry the court, Garbin and Peer resumed their match in an empty stadium. Garbin defeated Peer 7-5, 6-4. Peer left New Haven early Monday morning for New York where she will prepare for the U.S. Open.

Israel doubles specialists, Andy Ram and Jonathan Erlich, familiar faces in New Haven after appearing in several recent Pilot Pens, did not play this year.

This has been a year of successes and stressful moments for Israeli tennis. In July, Israel stunned the tennis world when it clinched a berth in the semifinal of the 2009 Davis Cup. A capacity crowd of 11,000 fans witnessed the doubles team of Andy Ram and Jonathan Erlich, as they defeated Russians Marat Safin and Igor Kunitsyn, 6-3, 6-4, 6-7(3), 4-6, 6-4. One day earlier, Harel Levy, ranked 210 in the world, defeated Igor Andreev in the opening match of the Davis Cup and 33rd ranked Dudi Sela defeated Russian Mikhail Youzhny.

Four months earlier, the Israeli tennis team competed against host Sweden in Malmo, Sweden. Due to concerns that violent protests would erupt over Israel’s actions in Gaza, the indoor arena was left empty. In that tournament, Dudi Sela defeated former Australian Open Champion,Thomas Johansson, 3-6, 6-1, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2, and Harel Levy outlasted Swede, Andreas Vinciguerra, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 3-6, 8-6, in a three and a half hour match.

In February, Shahar Peer made headlines when the United Arab Emirates denied her a visa, making it impossible for her to play in the Dubai championship. In response, the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour levied an unprecedented series of fines, penalties and warnings against the tournament. Peer received $44,245, an average of the prize-money she received for singles and doubles at events last year; the tournament was fined a record $300,000 for a breach of tour rules and the event will have to post a $2 million financial performance guarantee by July 1 for a number of conditions it must meet to stage the event in 2010, including the guarantee of a wild card for Peer if her ranking is not high enough for a place in the main draw.

The response from the women’s game marks a watershed. Larry Scott, the tour’s chief executive officer, said: “These actions send a clear message that we will not tolerate discrimination and we will not allow this situation to happen again.”

The United Arab Emirates then gave “special permission” for Andy Ram, then the number 11 ranked doubles player in the world, to be granted a visa so that he could play in an event in Dubai the following week.

Young Jewish players in the Pilot Pen qualifiers
Three of the 32 players in the female qualifying singles tournament are Jewish. In addition to Shahar Peer, Rachel Kahan and Gail Brodsky vied for spots in the main draw. Kahan, a home-schooled high school senior from Unionville, received a wild card into the qualifying tournament of the Pilot Pen after winning the Prequalifier-Yale Summer Championships. After losing the first four games to Romanian Monica Niculescu, Kahan, dressed in black shorts, shirt and cap, battled back to lose the first set 6-4. Niculescu ultimately won 6-4, 6-0.

Gail Brodsky, 18, who was born in the Ukraine and moved with her parents to Brooklyn, N.Y. 12 years ago, fought hard in her qualifying match, but lost to Italy’s Roberta Vinci, 6-0, 6-1. The home-schooled Brodsky has been training at the Weil Tennis Academy in California. She tells the Ledger that this is her first time in New Haven, and that she will soon move to Melbourne, Fla. Brodsky notes that the Jewish players are “friendly with each other.”

Jesse Levine, who lost in last year’s fourth round to Pilot Pen finalist, Mardy Fish, lost in the first round of qualifier singles and therefore is not in the main draw. Scott Lipsky made it to the main draw for men’s doubles with partner, Robert Kendrick.

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