Dara Torres is Jewish. Who knew?

I certainly didn’t; but it’s true. Turns out her father was Jewish, and then she subsequently converted. (To my mind, this suggests that Torres strongly identifies as Jewish, as Reform Judaism accepts patrilineal descent for the purposes of determining who is Jewish).

So there’s someone who is Jewish but has a Latino surname. I can’t possibly think of any bloggers who might be interested in such a phenomenon.

For those of you living in a cave, Torres is the 41-year-old swimming sprinter and mom, who holds records in the 50-meter and 100-meter races, and will compete in her fifth Olympics next month. Her extraordinary ability to compete at this level and at this age has, of course, spawned the usual doping rumors, which Torres seeks to alleviate by participating in a rigorous voluntary testing program. So far she has passed every test.

And for those of you who aren’t that tribal, you should realize that finding authentic Jewish sports figures is a bit of a struggle. They do exist, some of whom we are of course quite proud of, and some much less so.

But a lot of the time it’s a little embarrassing. Consider the event when Torres was inducted into the Southern California Jewish Sports Hall of Fame (italics mine):

Sheldon Andrens (USC and silver glove-winning minor league baseball player), Jerry Simon (pro basketball player in Israel, earned college and Maccabiah honors), Anne Barber (world, national and Maccabiah lawn bowling champion), Bill Caplan (renowned boxing publicist and promoter), Dr. Ira Pauly (UCLA football star) and Bobby Frankel (Eclipse Award-winning, multichampion racehorse trainer).

Others are Stan Cline (celebrated sports artist), Marc Dellins (UCLA sports information director and associate athletic director), Derrick Hall (former Los Angeles Dodgers senior vice president of communications), Steve Hartman (radio and television sports reporter and host), Barry Lorge (former San Diego Union sports columnist and editor, named Tennis Writer of the Year), Ken Schwartz (national and Maccabiah fast-pitch softball champion) and Dara Torres (nine-time Olympic medal swimmer).

Also included: Stacy Margolin (Potter) (ranked college, national and world tennis player-turned coach), Carl Earn (top junior tennis star, pro player and head pro at Hillcrest Country Club), Richard Perelman (track and field event manager, reporter and statistician, ran press operations for 1984 Olympics) and Leland Faust (high school, college and Maccabiah water polo and swimming champion, currently in sports management).

You’ve got to be kidding me. Sports managers, journalists, publicist, and a lawn bowling champion? And Dara Torres, a nine-time Olympic medalist? I wonder what she was thinking.

Anyway, she’s on the cover of Time magazine this week, at least in the international editions.

UPDATE: Reader “Q” the Enchanter reminds us of a classic colloquy from Airplane:

Elaine: Would you like something to read?

Hanging Lady: Do you have anything light?

Elaine: How about this leaflet — “Famous Jewish Sports Legends”?

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.