On May 27th President Barack Obama and First lady Michelle Obama invited the crème de la crème of American Jews to the first ever celebration of Jewish Heritage Month at the White House. May was declared Jewish Heritage Month by President George W. Bush in 2006. But this is the first time the White House has planned to hold a reception to celebrate it.

Among the youngest of those honored was boxing icon Dmitriy Salita who said he felt privileged to be included among a group of two hundred of the elite in the worlds of the arts, politics, entertainment, athletics and academics. The Brooklyn-based prizefighter who came from Odessa at the age of nine has distinguished himself not just as a great sports figure but as a champion humanitarian, good-will ambassador and a role model for young people of all religions, races and nationalities. The Dmitriy Salita Youth Center opening in Brighton Beach will serve as a beacon for young immigrants, helping them assimilate as Americans and also preparing those who choose, to learn about Israel.

“It was awesome meeting such a great person like Sandy Koufax,” said Salita. It seemed that Dmitriy was equally impressed with Koufax’s career as a great pitcher and for the fact that he would not pitch in the World Series on Yom Kippur—this from an idealistic young man who has steadfastly refused to fight on Shobbis even if a world title was at stake.

Dmitriy Salita and Sandy Koufax

President Obama, speaking eloquently to the assemblage, drew quite a few laughs when he singled out Koufax.

“This is a pretty fancy group here, a pretty distinguished group. We’ve got senators and representatives. We’ve got Supreme Court justices and successful entrepreneurs, rabbinical scholars, Olympic athletes—and Sandy Koufax. Sandy and I actually have something in common—we are both lefties. He can’t pitch on Yom Kippur; I can’t pitch—period.”

Besides Salita and Koufax, also honored from the sports world was former NFL offensive lineman, Dallas Cowboy super bowl champion Alan “Shlomo” Viengrad.

Salita, no newcomer to White House invitations, having twice previousy been invited by former President George Bush, says that he was also honored to meet and speak with Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan and Rabbi Levi Shemtov, Director of American Friends of Lubavitch in Washington, D.C.

Dmitriy with Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan

Devoting more of his time to working on programs for the Jewish community and as a good-will ambassador, Salita still spends many hours training as he continues his stellar ring career (only one defeat in thirty-two fights). There is talk of a possible mega-fight in New York against former junior welterweight champion Paulie Malignaggi. If and when it happens, it will definitely be after Shobbis!

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