Yuri Foreman

A World Champion and Would Be Rabbi Speaks at Brandeis to BGI and Brandeis CommunityYuri Foreman

World champion boxer.  Rabbinical student.  Tri-lingual spokesperson for excellence and determination.    That's Yuri Foreman, who spoke to the Brandeis University community under the auspices of the Brandeis-Genesis Institute for Russian Jewry on February 8, 2011.

Foreman's talk in Rapaporte Treasure Hall began with his introduction to boxing in his native Belarus, when his mother pledged to "make a man" out of him after Yuri was bullied by neighborhood children as a boy of seven.  He recounted the story of his family's emigration to Israel, and to his years of training in an Arab village in the only boxing gym anywhere in the vicinity of his new home in Haifa.   After becoming light middleweight champion in Israel, he left for the United States at the age of 18, in search of achievements on the global stage.

In the United States, Foreman both extended his boxing talents, and discovered new personal and spiritual resources in Judaism.  Like many young Jews who were born to families in the Soviet Union, Yuri had little exposure or connection to Jewish worship and tradition.  But he found a nourishing Jewish community in Brooklyn that inspired him to find meaning in the study of Jewish texts and to begin to train to become a rabbi - a goal that is now just a year in the future.

In the meantime, Foreman became the World Boxing Association light middleweight champion, in a dramatic 2009 victory.  He lost the title in a fight in Yankee Stadium in June 2010, after suffering a devastating knee injury.  Now, after surgery and recuperation, he is training to enter the rink again, with his next fight scheduled for March 12, 2011 in Las Vegas.

The talk attracted students and faculty associated with the BGI, as well as from across the Brandeis community, including the leaders of the University's student boxing club.  Foreman spoke informally of his experiences over dinner beforehand with the BGI undergraduate and graduate student community.