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entries tagged with: Amalya Knapp


Shabbat trumps gymnastics

A second-grade Level 4 gymnast from Teaneck made headlines this week, not for her prowess on the bars and beam but because she couldn’t compete in a state competition held last Shabbat.

Amalya Knapp’s parents, Chavie and Stephen, had sought advice from a local Orthodox rabbi and were told the event would not be appropriate for the Sabbath. Through her coach at the U.S. Gymnastics Development Center in Leonia, the family asked if Amalya could compete for the individual state title on Saturday night or Sunday, but the USA Gymnastics Association ruled that her Sunday participation would count only toward her team’s score.

“Amalya was devastated when she found out,” Chavie Knapp told The Jewish Standard. “But she chose to [accept that option], understanding that her hard work will only pay off for her team, and not for individual awards or for her own ranking.”


The Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey student has taken first place in five of nine Level 4 competitions in which she’s performed, and on Sunday she achieved her highest overall score of the year. “Amalya’s coaches really made her feel a part of it,” said her mother. “She worked hard and she felt great about it.”

That day, Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-Passaic) heard about the controversy and wrote to Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics that “[a]s the first and only Orthodox Jewish member of the New Jersey Legislature, I find this situation unacceptable.” He urged President Steve Penny “to make appropriate accommodations for children such as Miss Knapp in the future.”

Schaer told the Standard that he does not represent the Knapps’ district, but felt compelled to step in as the author of seven laws against religious discrimination. “I believe it is incumbent upon all of us in New Jersey, not just Orthodox Jews, to join together to ensure full and equal participation by members of all communities in social, athletic, and other aspects of life here.”

He recalled that in 2005, the mock trial team of Teaneck’s Torah Academy of Bergen County was barred from competing in national rounds held on a Saturday, until Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9) and the New Jersey Bar Foundation and Bar Association successfully lobbied for a change in policy.

USA Gymnastics issued a statement in response to Schaer that it “understands how personal choices and conflicts can affect an athlete’s participation and does its best to reasonably provide alternatives, when possible.... Per USA Gymnastics’ rules and policies, if an athlete cannot compete during the assigned session due to religious reasons or valid unforeseen circumstances, the athlete may compete on another day (or in another session).... If the gymnast cannot participate in a session for the correct skill level and age group, the athlete is not eligible for individual awards and medals.... These rules and policies were followed in Amalya Knapp’s situation, and the event organizers did their best to reasonably accommodate her with a competitive opportunity.”

Chavie Knapp said she’d be “thrilled” if the policy were changed as a result of Schaer’s efforts, but stressed that she and her husband are not bitter. “We are feeling very positive and supported, and we’re trying to make this a learning opportunity for Amalya. At the end of the day, Shabbat trumps everything else, and the spirit of it is as important as the rest.”


Dovid Greenfield wins wrestling title

Torah Academy team places second, Frisch third

Dovid poses with the trophy and his parents, Yoni and Nancy Greenfield. Photo by Lloyd de Vries

It took Dovid Greenfield of Teaneck just 21 seconds to pin his opponent and win his third straight heavyweight title at the Wittenburg tournament.

And the Torah Academy of Bergen County junior wasn’t surprised at all.

“I’ve worked really hard for this,” he told The Jewish Standard. “I go for a pin in every match.”

He’s probably one of the best wrestlers, if not the best, that TABC has ever produced, his coach, Yoni Ellman, told the Standard before the tournament.

“He’s a very good wrestler, well-recognized when he goes to matches,” Ellman said. “Every coach knows who he is.”

Ellman added that a Catholic school coach half-seriously asked if he could recruit Dovid.

The 16th annual Yeshiva University Henry Wittenberg Wrestling Invitational was held Feb. 18 to 21 at YU in Manhattan. It is named after Olympic gold medalist and Wrestling Hall of Fame and National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame member Henry Wittenberg, who coached at YU.

Overall, the TABC team placed second in the Wittenberg tournament, with 216 points, after four years in third place. The Frisch School of Paramus, the 2010 winner, finished third. Ida Crown Jewish Academy of Chicago placed first.

Dovid is featured on the YU wrestling site ( for his third-place finish at the Bergen County wrestling championships in January. He also won the Terminator Award there for the most pins in the tournament, six.

His third-place finish was the best-ever by a yeshiva student at the Bergen County tournament.

He plans to continue wrestling through four years of college, although he acknowledges that may be tough for an observant Jew.

“I’ll do what I can,” he said.

“The only place that I know that’s very open to Jewish wrestlers is Yeshiva University,” Ellman said.

The problem is that many college wrestling matches are held on Saturdays. Schools have a limited number of wrestling scholarships, because it’s not a sport that produces revenue, and administrators may not want to use one on a part-time wrestler.

“He’s getting to the point where he could be recruited, but obviously, being able to compete would be pretty hard,” Ellman said.

“He’d have a better chance of recognition and Division I offers if he wrestled at the state tournament — and that’s on a Saturday,” Ellman told the Standard. There are no efforts at present to get the tournament rescheduled.

Amalya Knapp, a 7-year-old observant gymnast from Teaneck, was unable to compete in a state competition on Shabbat earlier this month. And six years ago, TABC’s mock trial team was unable to compete in national finals that were scheduled for a Saturday, until protests led to a change in scheduling.

Dovid admits being observant and competing with secular athletes is a challenge.

“It narrows down my options a lot. I’m stuck going to just a few out of the many tournaments that are available, but for the most part, it’s OK,” he said. He added that he doesn’t “really even hear about most of the ones that are on Shabbos.”

Dovid plans to go to a yeshiva in Israel for a year between high school and college, but wants to attend an American university at this point. Ellman thinks the TABC wrestler is more likely to get offers from Division II and III wrestling programs, which may not have an athletic scholarship to offer him.

There’s another challenge for Dovid: Classes at TABC run until late afternoon, followed by mincha services and then, on some days, wrestling practice from 6 to 8 p.m.

“I’m up pretty late,” he said.

His goal for next year’s Bergen County tournament? “I’m taking first!”

Dovid Greenfield interview
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