The Old Lady and the Triathlon

Shira Schmidt

Shira Leibowitz Schmidt was raised in an assimilated Jewish home in New York, and became observant while studying at Stanford University in California. In June 1967 she told her engineering school professor she would miss the final exam because she was going to Israel to volunteer during the Six Day War. “That’s the most original excuse I have ever been offered,” he responded. She arrived during the war and stayed, receiving her BSc in absentia. She subsequently met and married the late Elhanan Leibowitz, and they raised their six children in Beersheba. Mrs. Leibowitz acquired a Masters in Urban & Regional Planning from the Technion, and an MSc in Civil Engineering from University of Waterloo. Today she lives with her husband, Dr. Baruch Schmidt, in Netanya. She co-authored, with Nobel prize-winning chemist Roald Hoffmann, Old Wine New Flasks. She has co-translated from Hebrew to English (with Jessica Setbon) From the Depths (the autobiography of Rabbi Israel Meir Lau); The Forgotten Memoirs (memoirs of Rabbis who survived the Shoah, edited by Esther Farbstein); and Rest of the Dove (Parashat Hashavua by Rabbi Haim Sabato). She and her husband appear in the documentary film about the Sanz-Klausenberger Rebbe, “Hidden Face.” She is available to lecture in Israel and in the US and can be contacted via

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11 Responses

  1. Charlie Hall says:

    Here in New York there are many triathlons that are NOT on Shabbat.

    • In the USA says:

      Yes, unfortunately Israel is on a 6 day work week, (well 5 1/2 day).
      Do uf someone wants to partipate in an organized sport or even go shopping, Shabbos is the only day available.
      I think Israel needs to go to a 5 day work week with Sunday off too. That way when the religious scream “shabbos” at least give the chilonim an alternate day. Even hear in the USA, I know many people find it hard when yom tov falls out shabbos and sunday.
      Leaving no secular day off to catch up on things around the house or to even go out somewhere.

      • David Ohsie says:

        I work with people in Israel in software. Their work week is Sunday-Thursday. From halacha/Judaism PoV, it makes much more sense to have Friday off than Sunday off.

      • mycroft says:

        David Ohsie
        February 28, 2019 at 3:34 pm
        I work with people in Israel in software. Their work week is Sunday-Thursday. From halacha/Judaism PoV, it makes much more sense to have Friday off than Sunday off.

        Agreed-there are many jobs in Israel Sun-Thur. HS attend Sunday-Thursday.
        There are sporting events on Friday see eg Jerusalem Marathon

  2. Bob Miller says:

    Shira, I’m curious about what factors led you and your husband to choose Kiryat Sanz / Netanya as a home.

    • Shira Schmidt says:

      You aren’t the only one to ask how we got here.The director of the film “Hidden Face” about the Sanz-Klausenberg Rebbe z”l, was also puzzled and included us in his film (my husband & I will be showing and discussing the film in the US after Pesach). My late husband Dr Elhanan Leibowitz passed away. I was a widow with six children. I met a wonderful widower, Dr Baruch Schmidt,a surgeon from Texas who had been brought to Landiado Hospital to build a Dept.of Surgery. After getting to know the Sanz chassidim, he decided to live in their Kiriya. We aren’t card carying Sanzers; more like fellow travelers. If your community is interested in renting the film “Hidden Face” for screening and having a Q & A afterwards, contact me [email protected]

  3. David Fachler says:

    Israel does have a 5 day work week.
    Very few work on Fridays and soccer matches on Friday afternoon have become very popular as have Marathons.
    Taking off Sunday would diminish the unique status of the Jewish State and would leave Israel with a 4 day work week that it could Ill afford

    • mycroft says:

      In general agree. Even institutions that run on a six day week, such as Israeli elementary schools have each employee working five days, different ones have different days off. Of colurse, teachers have plenty of vacations eg before Pesach, summer, near Yom Tov etc.

  4. David Ohsie says:

    Most Jews with some affiliation to Judaism do not see the Shabbos strictures as we (the Orthodox do). Judaism and Shabbos *can* be important to them even if they take the bus on Shabbos. The question is whether or not it makes sense to use coercion to enforce the Orthodox point of view. Your story at the end indicates that you think that coercion is not the right path. If so, Benny Gantz’s position may actually be sensible even though it would allow for things that you don’t prefer.

  5. Raymond says:

    Triathlons and other similar marathons are a waste of time and energy anyway. It is better to save all that energy for far more constructive pursuits, such as earning a living, taking care of one’s family, watching one’s health in a more moderate manner, and doing all things Jewish. And as for Benny Gantz, the fact that he is threatening to unseat Benjamin Netanyahu, tells me all I need to know about his (Mr Gantz’s) bad character.

  6. bo says:

    The Klausenberger and (sincere) zealots share an aspiration, that Shabbos be observed and safeguarded. They strongly disagree how to get there. How many an Orthodox Jew is in a situation where he should and does smile warmly to an irreligious Jew in the act of desecrating the Shabbos, all the while his heart is bleeding inside? The flippant words of Gantz are the polar opposite of this.

    There are also people with a caricature of Shabbos that they respect. How should they be dealt with? Perhaps kindness, but alas, their status quo is ultimately non-kosher.

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