Anti-Semitism on ice

He would have been a champion — If only it wasn’t for those damn Jews.

In more than a decade of covering international figure skating, locally raised author Alina Sivorinovsky has endured hearing more than her share of casually tossed off anti-Semitism, including the above comment from a British skating coach.

“He told me the reason he was never national champion is that Jews control the British figure skating association,” recalled Sivorinovsky, 34, a former skating researcher for several television networks and the author of several skating-related books.

“That’s hysterical, because the British have never had a Jewish skater and have never even had a Jew on their board.”

Yet Sivorinovsky believes skating reached a new high in lows last year, when outraged Lithuanian ice dancer Povilas Vanagas accused Israel of “buying” a medal after Israelis Galit Chait and Sergei Sakhnovsky edged Vanagas and partner Margarita Drobiazko for bronze at the World Figure Skating Championships. Among other insults, he also accused Chait’s father, Boris, of being a “Mafioso.”

Carping about figure skating results is nothing new; who could forget the international bitch-and-moan session at the last Olympics that eventually led to Canadian ice dancers Jamie Salé and David Pelletier being awarded a second set of gold medals?

Yet while the Russian team that placed ahead of Salé and Pelletier had been accused of “stealing” and “cheating,” the Israelis were immediately tarred as having “bought” the medal. Unlike the situation at the Olympics, however, a second bronze medal was not handed out.

On one skating-oriented Web site, Sivorinovsky noted a posting that read “Those people think they can buy anything. In Washington, they call it lobbying.”

She was even more dismayed at how the media casually accepted Vanagas’ fulmination about Jewish money corrupting the world of figure skating without doing its homework. In reality, there is no Israeli agent handing bags of cash to skating judges, she says. Israel’s skating federation barely has two shekels to rub together.

“This is especially ironic because Israel’s skating federation is one of the poorest out there,” said the Ukranian-born Sivorinovsky, who attended Brandeis Hillel Day School, Lowell High and San Francisco State. She now lives in New York City.

“Most skaters are new immigrants, and the one regulation-sized rink in the country is in Metulla, a few miles from Lebanon. And they get rocket attacks.”

The author has decided to donate the profits of her most recent book, “Murder on Ice” — a fictionalized account of a disgruntled skating aficionado doing a bit more than complaining to a controversial judge — to the Israel Skating Federation.

Sivorinovsky, incidentally, writes her fictional novels under the name Alina Adams. Her actual name was deemed “too ethnic” to grace the covers of romance novels.

In speaking out about the travails of Israeli skaters, Sivorinovsky hopes to alert the American public that Israel, in fact, has skaters.

“A lot of people are unaware there is such a thing as the Israel Skating Federation,” she said. “It’s that whole ice in the desert thing.”

Secondly, with a new ice-dancing season about to kick off, Sivorinovsky predicts that Vanagas’ accusations of the Israelis buying their medal will be repeated and re-repeated in the media once again, and she doesn’t think we have to stand for it.

“I know if you send a comment to the media saying, ‘Why are you saying this when you haven’t even researched it?’ even a major network will respond to just one letter,” she said.

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi is the managing editor at Mission Local. He is a former editor-at-large at San Francisco magazine, former columnist at SF Weekly and a former J. staff writer.