Israeli NASCAR driver Alon Day (center) with (from left) Roy Cohen, Avishai Sharlin, Dan Hod and Avi Day (Alon’s dad) at the Sonoma Raceway unfurling an Israeli flag (Photo/Max A. Cherney)
Israeli NASCAR driver Alon Day (center) with (from left) Roy Cohen, Avishai Sharlin, Dan Hod and Avi Day (Alon’s dad) at the Sonoma Raceway unfurling an Israeli flag (Photo/Max A. Cherney)

With Israeli NASCAR driver, diving into wide world of Jewish sports

This week, on the “(Is It) Good for the Jews?” podcast …

Larry Rosen: Have you ever heard of Alon Day? Not a long day. Alon Day.

Eric Goldbrener: Don’t know him.

LR: Alon Day is the first Israeli NASCAR river to finish a race in the U.S. He finished 32nd in the Toyota/SaveMart 350 in Sonoma …

EG: He’s racing a Toyota? No wonder he came in 32nd!

LR: Toyota sponsored the race. He finished the race. That’s a big deal. He’s had some success in Europe. 25 years old. From Tel Aviv. Here’s the thing: Most of his training came on a computer simulator because racing was illegal in Israel. How can that be?

EG: Why would they have auto racing in a country that has no petrol and all of the Arabs boycott them? We need that for our military aircraft, thank you very much. You’ve got a car, you drive to work, you drive home, maybe you go to the movies. That’s it.

LR: My child went to Israel. He said, “Electric cars as far as the eye can see.”

EG: Cutting edge.

LR: This is my problem with electric cars: no range. The Tesla? Can you drive it to L.A. from San Francisco? No! You have to stop and wait around for 45 minutes while it charges in Kettleman City. And then again in Buttonwillow.

EG: Here’s my problem with them: We’re paying to charge them?

LR: What?

EG: I see a guy charging his car and I ask, “What’s that cost?”

LR: Us or him?

EG: That’s the point. He says, “Nothing.” I say, “It costs $8, but we — the taxpayers — are paying it, not you!” Now you’ve got me irritated. Give me something else.

LR: I’ve got something else, sort of related. Last week, there was another milestone. T.J. Leaf, a basketball player from UCLA, became the [second] Israeli-born basketball player to get drafted into the NBA. I’m thinking, “Great,” but here’s the thing about T.J. Leaf: Born in Tel Aviv… because his dad happened to be playing basketball there. Not Jewish. Moved to San Diego when he was 2. No connection otherwise to Israel.

EG: Except that he’s an Israeli national.

LR: My niece was born in Alaska. They moved when she was 2. She’s not an Alaskan.


LR: Now look; I’m guilty as anyone in having pride at all Jewish accomplishment. I am the first guy to tell you Joey Ramone was Jewish.

EG: Nothing wrong with that.

LR: I’m the first guy to tell you Shawn Green didn’t play in the World Series on Yom Kippur.

EG: That’s what it is! You’re in a tribe!

LR: But — T.J. Leaf isn’t even Jewish! He just happened, by accident, to be born in Israel. He moved when he was 2. And yet all of the Jewish press have articles about this guy. I’m just saying it sort of makes us seem a little desperate.

EG: I think there’s something interesting in there. It says that Israel has come of age as a place where non-Jewish people go to seek their fortune. It’s important. When I was a kid, people went to Israel because they had nowhere else to go.

LR: I think it’s a fluke, though, because his dad was a basketball player. He went there because he couldn’t make it in the NBA.

EG: Exactly. Israel afforded him the opportunity to play professionally when he couldn’t in the U.S. When I was a kid, there was no opportunity in Israel. They were barely surviving. They were destitute.

LR: I can see that. The dad played in Israel for 17 years. But I feel like, if we as a people are mature enough to be connected to a country everyone resents because it’s too powerful, shouldn’t we be mature enough to not grab onto any athlete, musician, public figure who has a barely tangential connection to us?

EG: Yeah, but …

LR: Alon Day? Yes! Couldn’t get sponsorship in Europe because he’s Israeli? Fine! Plasters his car with Israeli flag decals in the U.S.

EG: Well, if you do that, try to come in … first. Not 32nd.

LR: Either way. Good for the Jews.

Larry Rosen
Larry Rosen

Larry Rosen is a writer, husband, father and author of “The Rabbi Has Left the Building,” a memoir about his son’s bar mitzvah. He co-hosts the podcast “(Is It) Good for the Jews?”

Eric Goldbrener
Eric Goldbrener

Eric Goldbrener is a Libertarian, Zionist, atheist and autodidact technologist. He co-hosts the podcast “(Is It) Good for the Jews?”