Jews In Sports: Exhibit Page @ Virtual Museum

Harold U. Ribalow and Meir Z. Ribalow
Page 383 of 457

Jews In American Sports


Irving Jaffee

Olympian Speedster


Speed skating on an ice rink is not the best-known or most popular sport among aspiring young American athletes. Traditionally, many of the great racers come from Europe, especially the Scandinavian and Slavic countries with their cold climates. Those Americans who do take up this specialized pastime are often from the West or Midwest, and are almost always All-American types from small towns. In this context, the achievements of Irving Jaffee were particularly remarkable. The Jewish boy from the sidewalks of New York fought his way past numerous obstacles, including racial prejudice, to become one of the great speed skaters of all time, a two-time Olympian and record-setter.

Ironically, Jaffee, like so many other young American boys, originally dreamed of being a hero not on an ice rink but on a baseball diamond. "I had my heart set on becoming a major league baseball star," he said in looking back at his life and career. "I was brought up in the Crotona Park section of the Bronx, the same section that spawned Hank Greenberg.

"We used to go to the park and play baseball. Hank's parents would look at him and say, ‘there he goes, with his shtickel holtz,’ his piece of lumber, his baseball bat. They didn't think much of what he was doing and my parents