A good sport, walk for Israel, charitable song and dance

Student wrestler Leor Goldfarb pins an opponent at a recent meet. 

Good as Gold(farb)

“I did it because it was the right decision to be made and I really wanted to make it.”

So explains Leor Goldfarb, an 18-year-old graduating senior at Ladue Horton Watkins High School and winner, in my book, of the 2017 Mensch Award, if such an award actually existed.

Truth be told, Leor isn’t sure why anyone is singling out his actions. Nevertheless, by making “the right decision,” Leor wound up with a $10,000 college scholarship for good sportsmanship, which surely will come in handy when he attends Indiana University in the fall. But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.

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Rewind to a few months ago when Leor was wrestling to qualify to compete in the state championships. I caution you I know as much about high school wrestling as I do quantum physics, which is to say, nothing, so I’m going to let Derek Greening, the wrestling coach at Hannibal (Mo.) High School, explain, as he did in a letter to Ladue’s athletic director, Sweeney LaBarge:

“During the 182-pound semi-final match, my wrestler was wrestling Leor Goldfarb. We were winning 7-0 and taking down Mr. Goldfarb when we illegally slammed him (which means lifting and returning an opponent to the mat with unnecessary force). Since we slammed him, Mr. Goldfarb could have been awarded the win, and would have automatically been a state qualifier. Instead of taking the win, Mr. Goldfarb and (Ladue wrestling coach Kevin) Clawson decided to do a stop start of the match and give my kid the win so he could advance. Both were aware that they were giving up a guaranteed spot at the state tournament and that Mr. Goldfarb would have to wrestle back in order to qualify. I am not sure how many individuals and coaches would make the same decision. It takes an enormous amount of character and class to make a decision like this. Both Coach Clawson and Mr. Goldfarb demonstrated they obviously have both!”

As a result of Leor’s actions, Ladue Superintendent Donna Jahnke nominated him for the Carl Fricks Sportsmanship Scholarship, which is presented annually to graduating high school seniors from the St. Louis metropolitan area who embody outstanding sportsmanship.  Administered by the St. Louis Sports Commission Associates — the commission’s young professionals group — the scholarship recognizes individuals who “exemplify honesty, integrity, civility, selflessness, kindness, compassion and class in athletic competition.”

This year, 82 nominations were received; the field was narrowed to 31 and then, finally, to, three finalists. Leor was the top winner, receiving $10,000 in scholarship money. The other two runners-up each received $2,500.

When Leor and I spoke Monday night, after he finished playing a lacrosse match, I asked if his Jewish values had anything to do with his decision to let his opponent advance to state. He and his family attend Congregation B’nai Amoona but he became a bar mitzvah at Shaare Zedek (now Kol Rinah).

“I didn’t want to take a free ride to state. I wanted to get there the right way – by wrestling my way in,” explained Leor, who was able to do just that and who also made the Suburban Central wrestling all-conference first team. 

“My parents and summer camp (B’nai Brith Beber Camp in Mukwonago, Wisc.) emphasized giving back and not putting myself first. I’ve been taught to give back and do the right thing.”

Meanwhile, when Leor was illegally slammed, his parents were in the stands watching. Says his mother, Evan Goldfarb, “We had no idea what was happening. I was just hoping he would be able to get up and walk again. He was in a lot of pain.”

Later, when she learned of the decision her son had made, her immediate response was “Why did you do that?”

“I said, ‘You could have gone to state and this kid did an illegal move?’ But as I grew to understand and thought about (Leor), I knew he did the right thing for him. He’s a fighter and wanted to get (to state) on his own skill. 

“And really, it was most exciting when he pinned the kid in the next rounds.”

Walk this way

Why not show your support for Israel and get a little exercise too? 

On Sunday (May 21), a “Walk in Support of Israel” will honor the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem. At noon, participants will gather on the back parking lot at the Staenberg Family Complex, 2 Millstone Campus Dr., then walk to the four corners of Schuetz Road and Lindbergh Boulevard to show their support for Israel. Afterwards, participants will return to the J, where there will be activities for families and food available for purchase.

Organizers say T-shirts will be handed out, along with Israeli and American flags. A proclamation from Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, recognizing the walk for Israel and encouraging all Missourians to participate, will be read. Rabbis Brigitte Rosenberg, of United Hebrew, and Menachem Tendler, of U. City Shul, will give short speeches.

This event unofficially kicks off many others that will be held in the next few weeks commemorating the Six-Day War, fought between June 5 and 10, 1967 by Israel and the neighboring states of Egypt (known at the time as the United Arab Republic), Jordan and Syria. The Jewish Light will run a list of these activities, as well as its own special commemorative section on Wednesday, June 7. 

If you have a story to share about your experience in Israel or at home during the Six-Day War, please email us at [email protected] or call 314-743-3665.

For more information about the Walk for Israel, “like” St. Louis Friends of Israel on Facebook or email [email protected]

Broadway bound

The Tony Awards, which pays tribute to the best of Broadway theater, will air at 7 p.m. (CST) on Sunday, June 11 on KMOV (Channel 4). To get you in the mood, consider “A Toast To The Tonys!” the first two weekends in June, presented by Broadway Fantasies. 

This original song and dance revue, now in its 28th year, features professionals and amateurs, many of whom are Jewish, performing for fun and for charity.  All net proceeds will be donated to County Older Residents Programs (CORP).

Shows take place at 7 p.m. Saturday, June 3 and 10 and at 2 p.m. Sunday, June 4 and 11 at St. Joseph’s Academy, 2307 S. Lindbergh Blvd. Tickets are $17 with group rates at $15 per ticket; to order, email [email protected] or call 314-615-4041 Monday through Friday.