At last, the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Model Calendar has some real competition -- some Jewish competition. The latest thing in girly pinups -- with class -- is the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute's (HBI) Jewish + Female + Athlete Calendar. So you can toss that traditional scroll of dates and holidays from your local Jewish mortuary, and instead pour over a showcase of strong, beautiful Jewish women champions.
Everyone knows of Jewish athletes like Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax, but how about Judo star Yael Arad, who won Israel's first Olympic medal? Or Californian Deena Drossin Kastor, who won the bronze in the 2004 Olympic marathon? Or Charlotte "Eppy" Epstien, who fought to have women's swimming recognized as an Olympic sport?
The calendar profiles 14 current stars and 13 legends from the past. It spotlights both athletic achievements, as well as contributions to the advancement of women's sports.
"We are always trying to combat negative stereotypes of Jewish women," said Shulamit Reinharz, HBI's founding director. "Most people laughed when they first heard about the project and were surprised to learn we had so many high-caliber athletes to choose from, that it was hard to decide who to include," said Reinharz, whose HBI also created a companion Jewish + Female + Athletes traveling exhibition.
Local legend, Thelma "Tiby" Eisen, 83, played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League from 1943-54.
"Oh, we had the best time," said the spunky Pacific Palisades resident, who played tennis in Echo Park and softball at the Wilshire Veterans' complex before being recruited for the league.
"But they would never have had a calendar like this back then. Many people thought playing baseball was unwomanly," said Eisen, who played for five different teams.
Another featured performer is former U.S. Olympic cyclist Nicole Freedman, 33. She expressed profound respect for the pioneering women who made her career possible.
"When you think how these athletes competed when women weren't supposed to play sports, or about the Jewish athletes who boycotted the 1936 Olympics, you realize what got us to where we are," said Freedman, who hopes to race for Israel in the 2008 Olympics.
Calendar sales proceeds will fund HBI and next year's calendar production.
Eisen still assists the Dodgers and Angels with youth baseball clinics: "You can do anything you make up your mind to do."