Women’s sports and Judo

Women’s sports and Judo

I noticed that Warren Boroson’s Aug. 8 article on Jews in sports elicited quite a response, almost all from male readers, except one woman, Prof. Rebecca T. Alpert, who commented (Aug. 15) that he should have written about some Jewish women athletes. As a Jewish female athlete who has enjoyed playing all kinds of sports most of my life, I agree with her. In spite of this fact, I found the article very interesting and informative and suggest that perhaps at a later date a follow-up article about this subject could appear in The Jewish Standard.

Many people may not realize that a major boost for women’s sports occurred in 1972 when the Title IX federal program provided much needed funding for female athletes in high schools and colleges. Before that time many female athletes were treated as “second class citizens”(myself included) and limited to intramural women’s basketball and volleyball. Since this positive change, many women, from many different backgrounds, went on to receive college athletic scholarships and then made great strides in all kinds of sports.

Since no mention was made of the sport of Judo, I would like to call your readers’ attention to two Jewish male athletes, Bernard and Robert Lepkofker, 6′ 4” twin brothers from Brooklyn, who discovered the sport of Judo while stationed at the Fuchu Air Force Base in Tokyo in 1957 and went on to become world champions in the 1960s. One of them, Bernard, won his first Maccabiah gold medal in the games of 1965 and other gold medals in 1969, 1973, and, finally, at age 44, in 1977. Their amazing story of coming from a dysfunctional family, growing up in an Orthodox children’s home, and then becoming basketball stars in the 1950s, before switching to Judo, is told in a compelling book, “The Judo Twins,” by Stan Friedland (published in 2007 by AuthorHouse), which I recommend highly.