Muhammad Ali, RIP

The world is mourning the passing of boxing champion Muhammad Ali. Some years ago, Ali made an appearance at Congregation Rodeph Shalom in Philadelphia. What was the reason for his visit?

Muhammad Ali-1 by Aymen Tanazefti is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

AHe was in attendance at the aufruf of his daughter Khaliah in 1997, prior to her marriage to Spencer Wertheimer.

B. He attended the funeral of Howard Cosell in 1995. Ali spoke at the ceremony, saying, “I am the world’s greatest boxer, but Howard Cosell was the world’s greater promoter of boxing. Shalom, Howard.”

C. He was in attendance at his grandson Jacob’s bar mitzvah in 2012.

D. In 2013, Ali was the honorary referee at a charity boxing match at the synagogue, pitting Israeli World Boxing Association welterweight champion Yuri Foreman against New Jersey boxer Dustin “The White Tiger” Fleischer, who wears the Chai once owned by his grandfather, a Holocaust survivor.

E. Ali was born a Baptist, and later converted to Islam. But in 2010 he converted once again, to Judaism, in a ceremony at Rodeph Shalom. Said Ali at the time, “I changed my name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali because Cassius Clay was a slave name. But now I am changing my name to Moses Ali-yah. Moses was also a slave, but he became free and made Ali-yah to Israel, so I am honoring him. Now let’s go to the kiddush and get lunch. I hear it floats like a matzah ball and stinks like a kishke.”

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