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...

  • Beliefs and concepts Book Reviews The Media, Israel, and Anti-Semitism (REVIEW)

    The Media, Israel, and Anti-Semitism (REVIEW)

    Pressing Israel: Media Bias Exposed from A-Z by Lee Bender and Jerome Verlin (Pavilion Press, Philadelphia, Pa. 2013) Sophocles said, “What people believe prevails over truth,” Pressing Israel: Media Bias Exposed from A-Z is ideal for the arm chair reader who would like a basic grasp of the terms used in the mainstream media’s presentation of the Arab-Israeli situation as is reported today. This is a book whose time has come. This is a book where the reader gains a [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs William Shatner’s One Man Show Keeps Him in the Limelight (INTERVIEW)

    William Shatner’s One Man Show Keeps Him in the Limelight (INTERVIEW)

    JNS.org – On Thursday, audiences around the country can feel what it is like to be William Shatner, the Jewish actor best known for his portrayal of Captain James T. Kirk on “Star Trek.” Shatner’s one-man show “Shatner’s World”—which was on Broadway and toured Canada, Australia, and the United States—will be presented in nearly 700 movie theaters nationwide for one night only on April 24. Sponsored by Fathom Events and Priceline.com (for whom Shatner has famously served as a pitchman), [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews The Origins of Palestinian Refugee Relief Efforts (REVIEW)

    The Origins of Palestinian Refugee Relief Efforts (REVIEW)

    Romirowsky and Joffe’s book Religion, Politics and the Origins of Palestine Refugee Relief is an important volume for those interested in truly understanding the origins of the Palestinian refugee issue. Utilizing a treasure trove of newly released documents, the authors link UNRWA’s (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine) origins to the Quakers/American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). For those readers who thought they knew most of the Middle East story, Romirowsky and Joffe’s version provides another twist. The authors meticulously [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports Israeli Soccer Team Faces Prospect of International Ban

    Israeli Soccer Team Faces Prospect of International Ban

    The Israel National soccer team could be facing a World Cup ban, and other soccer sanctions, unless it alleviates travel restrictions and increases field access for Palestinian players and coaches. The head of the Palestinian Football Association is pushing for international soccer’s governing body, the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA), to issue a ban on Israel competing internationally, claiming Israel’s restrictive travel for Palestinians is equivalent to a form of oppression. “It’s not only the athletes,” Jibril Rajoub explains. [...]

    Read more →
  • Beliefs and concepts Book Reviews Jewish Author of ‘Eat to Live’ Dishes on Health Care, Nutrition, Disease Prevention

    Jewish Author of ‘Eat to Live’ Dishes on Health Care, Nutrition, Disease Prevention

    JNS.org – While the national debate on “Obamacare” rages on past the recent March 31 sign-up deadline, bestselling Jewish author Dr. Joel Fuhrman says the “current disease care model of what we call ‘health care’ cannot possibly be sustained.” “There is simply not enough money available to support a system in which the lion’s share of expenditures is devoted to acute care, with virtually nothing being spent on preventive medicine, i.e. health care,” Fuhrman says in an interview. “To make [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity ‘Tears of Color’ Art Exhibit Shows Struggles of Israelis With Eating Disorders

    ‘Tears of Color’ Art Exhibit Shows Struggles of Israelis With Eating Disorders

    JNS.org – “This is how I want to be—without fear. Independent. I want to be like a bird. I want to spread my wings.” So reads part of the description beneath one of the 30 paintings on display until the end of May at the ZOA House in Tel Aviv. The collection represents the first-ever art exhibit of its kind: an exhibit created entirely by Israelis in treatment for eating disorders. Dubbed “Tears of Color,” based on one of the [...]

    Read more →
  • Beliefs and concepts Book Reviews Overprotective or Loving? Daughters Reflect on Jewish Mothers in New Anthology

    Overprotective or Loving? Daughters Reflect on Jewish Mothers in New Anthology

    JNS.org – Rachel Ament noticed that she and her friends often shared humorous anecdotes that were typically variations on a theme: overprotective, worrying Jewish moms who smothered them with love. That included Ament’s own mother. “My mom is probably every Jewish stereotype scrunched into one,” the Washington, DC, resident tells JNS.org. “At the root of all these stereotypical, worrying, overprotective moms, is love.” A social media writer for Capital One, as well as a freelance writer, Ament decided about three years [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Commentary ‎Kosher Lust: Love is Not the Answer (REVIEW)

    ‎Kosher Lust: Love is Not the Answer (REVIEW)

    Kosher Lust, by Shmuley Boteach (Gefen Publishing House, 2014). You really do want to find something positive to say about Shmuley Boteach. He is a phenomenon; very bright, an articulate bundle of energy and self-promotion. Anyone who has the chutzpah to describe himself as “America’s Rabbi” deserves ten out of ten for effort. I believe that along with most Chabad alumni, official and unofficial, he does a lot of good and is a sort of national treasure. In this world [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.