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Olympian AJ Edelman and Jared Firestone Look to Grow ‘Advancing Jewish Athletics’ to Help Jewish Athletes

Jared Firestone, North America Cup Park City, Utah January, 2021

Israeli Olympian AJ Edelman and National Champion Jared Firestone are on a mission to triple the size of the Israeli team at the 2026 Winter Olympics in Milan, and also help other Jewish athletes reach their Olympic dreams. The initiative they dub the “Frozen Chosen” is Edelman’s and Firestone’s life mission.

Adam Jeremy “AJ” Edelman (“The Hebrew Hammer”) was raised in a Zionist, Modern Orthodox home in Boston. His cousins live in Teaneck, and his aunt Nancy is a beloved community educator. Edelman made aliyah in 2016 and holds dual citizenship. He is an eight-time Israeli National Champion in Sliding Sport and was the first Orthodox Jew to compete for Israel at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. He is also Israel’s first Skeleton athlete to compete in the Olympics and, in 2023, became the first-ever Israeli to take a podium in a sanctioned bobsled race. In March 2024, Edelman’s team made history, becoming the first team ever to capture an overall yearly race circuit podium representing a country that has yet to compete in the Olympic games in Bobsled.

Jared Firestone, World Cup training, March 14, 2024

“I grew up in a very loving and supportive Modern Orthodox home,” Edelman told The Jewish Link. “Every aspect of my life has been shaped by the blessed environment I had that taught me a love of my identity as a Yid. When I was 15 my parents sent me for the summer to Israel. The second Lebanon war broke out and we spent the summer experiencing Israel during wartime. The summer left a huge impression on me. I fell deeply in love with Israel, and promised myself that I would one day become an Israeli.

“I played sports from age 3 when I strapped on hockey skates and began my hockey career that would last until I graduated from university 20 years later,” he continued. “Curiously, though I am no super athlete, nor was I born with top-tier athletic talent, sports have guided so much of my life. Through three decades of sport participation I have learned how powerful a tool representation in sport can be for both an individual and a community. It is these experiences that have led me to dedicate much of my life’s efforts to promoting Jewish and Israeli participation and investment in sport.”

Jared Firestone World Cup Lake Placid, March 21, 2024

Jared Firestone (“The Jewish Jet”) is a World Cup athlete for Israel’s Bobsled and Skeleton Team in the sport of Skeleton. He is a four-time National Champion, a seven-time medalist and the winner of the first gold medal for Israel in Sliding Sport. He is now also an Israeli, having made aliyah in 2019. He is currently training for the 2026 Winter Olympic Games in Milan.

“I’ve always had a unique role being a representative of Israel,” Firestone said. “Unlike many of my other competitors, I have always taken extra time to engage with spectators and fans to create a positive interaction so they can go home and tell their friends and family about it. This season I had to balance the roles of advocate and ambassador more than ever, while ensuring that it did not interfere with my performance as an athlete. I had stickers of the hostages on my sled every day of training for all the athletes and spectators to see, and took some training runs still with tears in my eyes. However, I knew that if I wasn’t speaking up for Israel, the season would be a failure. So every day I made sure to fulfill my duties as an ambassador for Israel.”

“Every single step on this journey is taken for myself, my people and my country,” Edelman said. “Everything flows from that mission. I view the team as an ambassador of the country. As leader of the team it is important to remember that everything I do can be of benefit in some small way for my people and country. It is motivating in the extreme, and sometimes can become an intense weight. I am blessed to be able to wear the flag of my people and proudly introduce myself as ‘AJ from Team Israel.’”

AJ Edelman and his team.

In 2021 Edelman and Firestone founded the nonprofit Advancing Jewish Athletics, Inc. AJA is a registered 501(c)(3) that distributes 100% of earmarked funds directly to its athletes, allowing them to serve as global ambassadors for the Jewish people and the State of Israel, through sport.

“We tried to take the excellent model that existed with our beautiful Israel Bobsled and Skeleton Federation, and expand that mission out to a broader Jewish and Israeli sports ecosystem,” Firestone said. “AJ and I founded AJA as a product of our own experiences. Despite having to almost completely self-fund our careers, we were able to proudly represent Israel on an international stage. We knew that if only there was an infrastructure to support us, we could have even greater success, both with on-ice results and off-ice ambassadorship opportunities. This is why we founded AJA.

“AJA’s mission is to increase representation and high achievement by Jewish athletes on the global sports scene,” he continued. “We’ve seen firsthand the powerful impact that athletes can have as ambassadors, and want to ensure as many of us are out there as possible doing the same. We’ve helped other athletes by providing grants for them to use in pursuit of their athletic goals. Last year we funded two elite males and two elite females and two exceptionally promising youth athletes. Our grants allowed these six athletes to purchase essential equipment upgrades and in some cases attend competitions they otherwise would not have been able to. It provided a sense of community to our winners, something we find to be extremely important when trying to build an ecosystem of success.”

AJ Edelman in front of his sled

And yes, there have been setbacks. Firestone told The Jewish Link: “A year-and-a-half before the Olympic qualification, I suffered a severe case of rhabdomyolysis [a serious medical condition, breakdown of muscle tissue that releases a damaging protein into the blood] in my legs and was hospitalized in the ICU for three days and could not do more than walk for three months. I came back a few months later and earned Israel’s first podium finish in Skeleton at the North America Cup in Park City, Utah.”

Edelman shared: “2022 was difficult for both Jared and me. We knew that with proper funding, making the Olympics wouldn’t have even been a question. When we both fell just short, looking at how close things were and realizing that it was just a question of missing a sponsor, it was hard as athletes and it called into question even why we should continue to push forward with AJA and our own personal journeys.”

So what do future plans look like for Firestone and Edelman? “I am training to qualify Israel for the 2026 Winter Games in Milan in Skeleton and hope to be a part of a large delegation, including men’s and women’s bobsled teams,” Firestone said. “Through our ‘Frozen Chosen’ initiative, Advancing Jewish Athletics is working to ensure Israel can bring its largest delegation ever to the Winter Games in Milan. We have a plan roadmapped to do just this and need $2 million to bring nine athletes to Milan from Sliding Sport.”

AJ Edelman on the Olympic podium

Edelman said: “The plans are to make the Olympic finals in 2026. Whether we make it now depends almost entirely on finding a patron or support. AJA is a core part of that. The team is meant to serve as an example of what is possible for Jews and Israel in sport. The plan is that the team’s success translates into attention for AJA and what our mission is.”

For more information, visit www.JewishJet.com, contact [email protected] or go to Instagram at
@ajedelman or @jfireisraelslider. Those who would like to donate to the team can email [email protected] and can also find information at israelbobsled.team/donate.

Susan R. Eisenstein is a longtime Jewish educator, passionate about creating special, innovative activities for her students. She is also passionate about writing about Jewish topics and about Israel. She has two master’s degrees and a doctorate in education from Columbia University.

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