Shalom Life | July 23, 2014

Jewish U.S. Gymnast Hits the Right Notes with Hava Nagila

Alexandra Raisman earns spot in finals dancing to popular Jewish song

By: David Shear

Published: July 30th, 2012 in News » World

Jewish U.S. Gymnast Hits the Right Notes with Hava Nagila

Who knows? Maybe the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) refusal to commemorate the Munich 11 at this year’s London Olympics has secretly inspired Jewish athletes from other countries to go above and beyond expectations.

Take, for example, 18-year -old gymnast Alexandra Raisman, a Jewish girl, and Massachusetts native, competing for the United States team. Raisman did the Jews – and the Israelis – doubly proud recently, when she earned a spot in the individual finals for the U.S. in a floor exercise routine set to the unmistakable tune of Hava Nagila, the Hebrew folk song that has become a staple of bands at Jewish weddings and bar/bat mitzvahs.

A clip from Raisman's routine in March performed to Hava Nagila.

Known affectionately by teammates as Aly, Raisman surprised everyone by forcing her teammate – and favorite Jordan Wieber – out of the final, making her the new focus of the team and of much of the U.S. television coverage.

The song choice was the brainchild of Raisman’s coaches, Romanians Mihai and Sylvia Brestyan.

Raisman is the winner of the Pearl D. Mazor Outstanding Female Jewish High School Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award presented by the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in New York.

And if you needed any further proof that Jewish parents can be neurotic, NBC broadcast featured a clip of Raisman's parents watching their daughter perform her routine on the uneven bars. This is as great as parental nervousness gets as these parents watch their daughter fly and flip in the air, trying to stick what is considered her weakest event. Pure comedy.

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