Dmitriy Salita – Back in the Ring – Exclusive Algemeiner interview

December 1, 2010 1:42 am 0 comments

Share this Article

Dmitriy Salita

Dimitriy Salita is a professional boxer and devoted Orthodox Jew. On December 16th, Dmitriy will be fighting for the IBA world title against Mike Anchondo (30-3, 19 KO) in the Roseland Ballroom in Times Square. As an exciting and unconventional twist to boxing, Grammy-nominated recording artist Matisyahu will sing his friend and fellow observant Jew into the ring. Journalist and Algemeiner contributor Yonit Tanenbaum sat down with Dmitriy to discuss his aspirations and inspirations.

You were quoted saying, “You can combine Judaism with anything.” How successful do you think you’ve been in combining Hasidic, Orthodox Judaism with boxing?

I serve G-d through boxing. Boxing is not a descent; rather, Judaism is an ascent for me. I come from a non-religious family. If I had come from an orthodox family or a family of rabbis, that would be different. It was always my goal, since I was very young, to serve Jewish people and Jewish causes through boxing. I knew boxing was my American dream… to make something of myself. I think Judaism is underrepresented in pop-culture and that whoever has opportunity to promote it in the proper context, should. That’s what I’m trying to do.

What was the transition like, going from defending yourself in the schoolyard in Ukraine to being a proud, Jewish boxing champion?

I took Karate as a child for self-defense and began boxing later on. I was always a shy, quiet kid, not really with the “in” crowd. But at the same time I didn’t like to be picked on, so I tried to stand up for myself. I started boxing at 13.

Boxing was my way out of the poverty I was in, my way out of the ghetto. After a few years, I had won pretty much every amateur tournament there was to win. Jewish kids hadn’t done that for a really long time. Back in the 1930s, Jews were the best in boxing.

At 19, I turned professional, after my Golden Glove victory. For the first few months, I used my paychecks to buy new sneakers. It was a personal victory because I hadn’t been able to afford popular shoes like Jordons when I was in high school.

You share a birthday with the Lubavitcher Rebbe; what does that mean to you?

I wear a yamulka and I am an observant Jew because of the Rebbe and because of the Rebbe’s blessings. I feel that most of the newly observant, religious world, as well as Jewish people all around the world, have been and continue to be influenced by the Rebbe. I come from Russia and still remember the mindset of people there. People lived in difficult conditions. With the Rebbe’s help, so many of those Jews who assimilated have come back to Judaism. It is my personal opinion that the Rebbe resurrected Judaism to what it should be. It’s a blessing, a great thing, to share a birthday with such a good man.

What was your most significant fight, and why?

I was 18-years-old and heading to the US championships. The finals of the US Nationals were taking place in Mississippi. I asked my rabbi, Rabbi Zalman Liberow, director of Chabad of Flatbush, for a blessing to win. At his suggestion, we turned to a book of letters written by the Rebbe. I opened to a letter in which the Rebbe was telling someone, “Do your job according to Jewish law.” Rabbi Liberow interpreted that message to be a sign that I shouldn’t box on Shabbos. I had no weight to change the fight, which was scheduled for the following Saturday, but I could refuse to fight on Shabbos. It was very difficult and I was almost disqualified, but I held my ground and, thank G-d, the time of the fight was changed to after Shabbos. It was a big step for me to take at that point in my life, especially because I wasn’t observing Shabbos yet. Personally, that was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do. It was a huge turning point in my life. And, thank G-d, I won that fight.

How has your life changed since your commitment to Judaism?

I always felt connected to G-d, even before I started going to Chabad. I always felt that G-d controlled and played a big role in my life. Becoming an observant Jew is a tough process, a change of pace. I started when I was a young boy, so it was easier for me. Judaism adds structure to your life and a deeper understanding, especially as you get older and start having a family. So, aside from the spiritual rewards of Judaism, on a practical level, now that I’m married and my wife and I just had a little girl, it adds structure and depth to everyday life. I’m working on myself to grow and I still have a long way to go.

What message would you like for young men and women to take from your experience?

Even as a young adult, I felt it important to believe in G-d and to believe in and pursue your G-d-given abilities. Obviously, you have to work very hard at whatever your abilities may be. But I feel that hard work pays off. “G-d loves nothing more than hard work,” a rabbi once told me. That’s a good slogan to live by. I encourage people to go after their talents. And combine Judaism with your talent 100%. G-d gives everybody a certain individual expression that only that person has and it’s important to see it as a G-dly gift, so to say, and to use it to make the world a better place. Everyone has that potential and the responsibility to make the world around him a better place.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Blogs Education Seeds of ‘Start-Up Nation’ Cultivated by Israel Sci-Tech Schools

    Seeds of ‘Start-Up Nation’ Cultivated by Israel Sci-Tech Schools

    JNS.org – Forget the dioramas. How about working on an Israeli Air Force drone? That’s exactly the kind of beyond-their-years access enjoyed by students at the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) industrial vocational high school run by Israel Sci-Tech Schools, the largest education network in the Jewish state. More than 300 students (250 on the high school level and 68 at a two-year vocational academy) get hands-on training in the disciplines of aviation mechanics, electricity and energy control, and unmanned air [...]

    Read more →
  • Beliefs and concepts Education Haredim and Bedouin: A Tale of Two Communities Transformed by Vocational Education

    Haredim and Bedouin: A Tale of Two Communities Transformed by Vocational Education

    JNS.org – Low enlistment rates in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). High rates of poverty. Communal resistance to traditional schooling. Difficulty finding employment or a lack of motivation to be employed. These conditions are shared by two sectors of the Israeli population that the casual observer likely wouldn’t group together: haredi Jews and Bedouin. Through its operation of schools for each population, however, the Israel Sci-Tech Schools Network seeks to give haredim and Bedouin a brighter future in the Jewish [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Theater US & Canada New Play Explores the ‘Arrogance’ of American Jews Critical of Israel, Playwright Says

    New Play Explores the ‘Arrogance’ of American Jews Critical of Israel, Playwright Says

    In his new play Mr. Goldberg Goes to Tel Aviv, playwright Oren Safdie tackles an issue that he has a major concern with: the relationship between Israelis and left-leaning Diaspora Jews with their “I know better” critical views. At the heart of the one-act play is Tony, a Jewish and gay Palestinian sympathizer who expresses strong anti-Israel sentiments when the play begins and at one point even sides with a Palestinian terrorist who holds his captive. Tony, who is also an [...]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Hassidic Parody of Taylor Swift Song Apes Long Jewish Holidays (VIDEO)

    Hassidic Parody of Taylor Swift Song Apes Long Jewish Holidays (VIDEO)

    A Jewish comedy troupe released a parody video on Wednesday of Taylor Swift’s hit song Shake It Off in which they joke about taking extensive time off from work for Jewish holidays. “And the goyim gonna stay, stay, stay, stay, stay. And the Jews are gonna pray, pray pray, pray, pray. I’m just gonna take, take, take, take, take. I’m taking off,” goes the chorus for I’m Taking Off. Menachem Weinstein, the video’s lead singer, is the creative director at [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Literature On 75th Anniversary, Looking at the Jewish Influence on Gone With the Wind

    On 75th Anniversary, Looking at the Jewish Influence on Gone With the Wind

    JNS.org – The 75th anniversary of the premiere of “Gone with the Wind” on Dec. 15 presents an opportunity to examine the Jewish influence on one of the most popular films of all time. That influence starts with the American Civil War epic’s famed producer, David O. Selznick. Adjusted for inflation, “Gone with the Wind” remains the highest-grossing movie ever made. It earned the 1939 Academy Award for Best Picture, the same honor another Selznick film, “Rebecca,” garnered in 1940. Selznick [...]

    Read more →
  • Featured Music US & Canada EXCLUSIVE: Matisyahu Provides Most Extensive Analysis Yet of His Religious, Musical Evolution (INTERVIEW)

    EXCLUSIVE: Matisyahu Provides Most Extensive Analysis Yet of His Religious, Musical Evolution (INTERVIEW)

    Matisyahu got candid in an exclusive interview with The Algemeiner on Monday about his religious and musical journey – after shedding his Chassidic skin, yarmulke, long beard and all – from the start of his career in 2005 when he became a reggae superstar with hits King Without a Crown and Jerusalem. The singer-songwriter embarks on his Festival of Light tour this month, an annual Hanukkah event that stops in Montreal, New York, and other cities before ending in San Juan, [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Personalities ‘Sheriff of Mars’ Unveils Endearing Life of Jewish Music Star Hidden in the Fields of France

    ‘Sheriff of Mars’ Unveils Endearing Life of Jewish Music Star Hidden in the Fields of France

    JNS.org – It was an era of steel strings, guitar heroes, and storytellers—high on heroin, rebellious. Outlaw country music, the hallmark of Nashville’s powerful and angry music scene of the 1970s, was the brew of greats such as Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Townes Van Zandt. But there is another, little-known music hero of that era: Daniel Antopolsky. A Jewish lad from Augusta, Ga.—the son of immigrants who settled in the south and ran a hardware store on Main Street—the [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Iranian Actress Replaces Israel’s Gal Gadot for ‘Ben-Hur’ Remake

    Iranian Actress Replaces Israel’s Gal Gadot for ‘Ben-Hur’ Remake

    Iranian actress Nazanin Boniadi replaced Israeli star Gal Gadot as the female lead in the new Ben-Hur remake, Hollywood.com reported on Tuesday. The Homeland actress will play Esther, a slave that Ben-Hur sets free and falls in love with. Gadot quit the movie when it became clear that filming conflicted with her schedule for the Man of Steel sequel. The Israeli actress plays Wonder Woman in the superhero film Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Actor Jack Huston takes on the [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.