אם אין אני לי, מי לי; וכשאני לעצמי, מה אני; ואם לא עכשיו, אימתי

If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And when I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?
— Rav Hillel H’Zakan

The YWA and the zinkin family are honored to once again announce the annual Aryeh Zinkin Yeshiva Wrestling Award.

Sponsored by the Zinkin family, the Aryeh "Captain Lou" Zinkin Yeshiva Wrestling Award grants $1,800 to one Wittenberg participant each year that has travelled a similar road as Aryeh - defying the odds to pursue their Torah identity while demonstrating a commitment to the advancement of the Jewish community.

The $1,800 may be used for any Judaic educational, recreational, service, or other purpose, proposed by the recipient on this application form, and approved by the selection committee.

Each yeshiva high school wrestling team is to nominate ONE of their teammates to be considered for the award. Submissions must be received by January 9, 2019.

To learn more about the award and how to apply, please contact the Yeshiva Wrestling Association:

Zinkin Award - Aharon Braun - Kushner - 182.jpg

Aharon Braun

2018 Award Winner

195, Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School

Wrestling is the purest of sports.

It is just you against your opponent ­ direct, immediate, and inevitable. When you step onto the mat, there is nowhere to turn for help, nowhere to hide, no teammates upon whom you can lean, and no equipment upon which to rely for protection or advantage. You face your adversary with nothing more than your mental preparedness and your physical training. Alone. Raw. Often, the difference between victory and defeat comes down to the single most elemental ingredient of all: heart. אם אין אני לי, מי לי “If I am not for myself, then who will be for me...?“

But wrestling is also about Team. It exists at the nexus where “I” becomes “We”, as it takes a We to create the I. A coach to train, teammates with whom to spar, each member contributes to the success of the whole, epitomized by the betterment of the individual. A wrestler cannot reach the top alone; he cannot be the best without the help of others. As in life itself, wrestling is a symbiosis of self and community, where each becomes stronger by harmonizing with the other. Wrestler and Team. Individual and Community. וכשאני לעצמי, מה אני “And when I am only for myself, what am I...? “

Aryeh "Captain Lou" Zinkin was the consummate wrestler. From an early age, he stood as a solitary figure on the mat, forced to learn from experience, to fight for all that would become his. As a child, with minimal support and direction, he grappled with life and understood that “If I am not for myself, then who will be for me?” With no background in Jewish observance, he chose a life of Torah and Avodat Hashem. He fought the odds and put himself through a Jewish High School, Jewish summer camps, and, eventually, Yeshiva University.

But Aryeh also understood that no man stands alone, and that “When I am only for myself, what am I?” Aryeh’s friends and colleagues recognized and admired his strength, his decisiveness, and his leadership. They chose him to be captain of their wrestling team at Yeshiva University. Later in life, he won over his closest teammate of all, his wife, Shelly, with whom he built a family committed to the values for which he fought so single-­mindedly as a child. He became a surgeon, sent his children to Jewish day schools and yeshivot, and became a pillar of his community. With no traditional family structure or religious background upon which to draw, he nonetheless became a model husband, father, and kovei’a itim – one who designates regularly scheduled hours to learn Torah, despite the demands and obligations of life.

As a wrestler, Aryeh knew that methodical and consistent training ­ repeating drill after drill after drill ­ were the bedrock of a winning record. He was keenly aware that to be the role model for his family that he himself never had, he would have to be equally consistent in his daily Jewish observances. Aryeh was enormously involved with his shul, serving as its president during two separate critical junctures in the shul’s history. He actively considered how he could elevate his Shabbat and Yom Tov table to be an inspiration for his family and guests. Every Shabbat, without fail, he would find time, from his flourishing medical practice and community involvement, to savor the incoming Shabbat by doing the grocery shopping, helping to cook, and setting the table. Shabbat meals were filled with zemirot and divrei torah, and while everyone retired to couches or to play after the meal, Aryeh was sweeping the floor and clearing off. Then, ever conscious of the example he was setting, he would demonstrate his love of Torah by opening a sefer and inviting his grandchildren to learn with him. His Pesach seder was a model for how to creatively integrate children into the rituals through questions, games and riddles. From his wrestling days, Aryeh understood that the flashy moves and grand gestures might attract applause, but discipline and perfection of the fundamentals would bring him the win. For those of us who were honored to know him, it was Aryeh’s consistency and his daily commitment to Jewish life, that made him such an outstanding individual.

Aryeh was a rock ­ immovable, reliable, committed, and unrelenting. He led by example, a soft­-spoken man of action with a wry sense of humor and an easy, warm smile. Aryeh lived each day, even his last days, by the dictum, ואם לא עכשיו, אימתי ­ “If not now, when...?” When Aryeh was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, being a physician himself, he was keenly aware of the brutal realities of his prognosis. Yet, the morning following his diagnosis, Aryeh awoke at 6 A.M., ­ as he always did, said Modeh Ani and picked up his talit and tefillin ­ as he always did, and walked to shul for minyan ­ as he always did. He continued to live his life the same way he always had for the previous 71 years. He did not have a bucket list, or a litany of regrets or to-­do’s. He was living his life exactly the way he wanted to, up until his very last day, when cancer would take his life 10 months later.

The Aryeh “Captain Lou” Zinkin Wrestling Scholarship is dedicated to honor the memory of a man who exemplified Self Improvement, Community, and Action. אם אין אני לי, מי לי; וכשאני לעצמי, מה אני; ואם לא עכשיו, אימתי  “If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And when I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?”

This scholarship seeks to both reward and support individuals who have travelled a similar road, ­defying the odds in pursuing their Jewish identity while demonstrating a commitment to the advancement of the Jewish community.

Aryeh drew meaning from service to Hashem, service to his family, and service to the community. May this Scholarship elevate his memory as we recognize and honor individuals who walk in his footsteps.


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