September 24, 2003


Meet the Ukrainian Chassidic Jew who is a world-class chess player: Ze'ev "Velvel" Dub is dispelling stereotypes (M. Gardner, 9/24/03, Jewish World Review)

A child prodigy, in the last few years Velvel has mastered most of the Talmud through the Mifal Hashas program. As a means of support, he competes in chess tournaments.

Velvel says that his grandfather was a chess champion, and his father also excelled at the game. He began playing — and winning — at age 4. At 14, he joined the local chess club.

At the time he left to attend the Moscow yeshiva, he was about to play a decisive game that would have established him as the Ukrainian youth chess champion. He chose instead to forgo that distinction and learn about his sacred heritage. [...]

The first large monetary prize Velvel received was from the Israel Chess Union. In presenting him with the award, the Union decided to arrange a lavish ceremony. Politicians and celebrities were invited. One, as it happened, was the recently chosen head of the Union, Knesset member Tommy Lapid.

A chess aficionado, Lapid also enjoys a reputation as being a rabid anti-religious rabble rouser.

When Velvel was called up to receive the prize, Lapid's mouth fell open, as his stereotype of religious Jews was dispelled.

Velvel, who began playing piano as a child, has also continued his musical career. To date, he has released four albums of classical music that he composed and plays on.

Maybe M. Gardner grew up in a different kind of neighborhood than we did, but somehow the Jewish stereotype we knew isn't dispelled by a chess and piano playing kid.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 24, 2003 9:23 AM

True; but what makes this fellow a bit special is that in addition to his talents at chess and music, he "has mastered most of the Talmud."

This in the day where lots of Jewish kids fantasize about playing in the major leagues and, with exceptions, have a spotty knowledge of their heritage.

(Though Velvel may also be a hockey phenom for all I know....)

Posted by: Barry Meislin at September 24, 2003 9:48 AM

I must say Orrin that those stereotypes whether
true ore not are not dispelled by the entertainment industry which is where most of
my (mis)information came from as a kid.

When I read the excerpt (not necessarily the article) I think...

feeble,glasses-wearing,slightly asthmatic,future-neurotic,insular/insulated,really-really-good-at-math

Am I a bad person?

Posted by: J.H. at September 24, 2003 9:59 AM

Mr. Lapid "enjoys a reputation as being a rabid anti-religious rabble rouser?" What else does he enjoy?

Posted by: Henry IX at September 24, 2003 9:59 AM

Walks on the beach and playing the accordian.

Posted by: J.H. at September 24, 2003 10:23 AM


Searching the Founding Fathers' correspondence for hints of Deism?

Posted by: oj at September 24, 2003 11:03 AM

JH -

There does seem to be an unspoken assumption in much of our culture that everyone has a different, but fair, set of talents; if you know someone is a math whiz, it's logical to then assume he's worse than normal at other things.

In my experience, though, quite the opposite is true. If you tell me only that X has some major talent, I'd guess he's more, not less, likely to have others. The (er, not inconsiderable) set of maths geeks I know are above-average atheletes on average, though I might grant lower social skills, particularly in the under-30 set (there was an interesting post here a while back on autism/Aspberger syndrome and links to math skills.

Posted by: Mike Earl at September 24, 2003 11:27 AM

I thought Kapler was the steroid stereotype. Maybe he should run for Governor of California.

Posted by: Casey Abell at September 24, 2003 3:03 PM