Like most professional boxers, Dmitriy Salita spends hours each day training. Though he lost a junior welterweight championship fight last year, he is hoping for another title shot. Like some boxers, he spends hours each day studying. He’s a business major at Touro College. And unlike any, he spends time mentoring teenage Jewish boys at a New Jersey day school, planning and helping to lead a youth center that bears his name and establishing a foundation that will support a Jewish cause (Chabad of Flatbush) and a secular one (Starrett City Boxing Club).
For the last year, “Kid Kosher,” a Ukrainian-born baal teshuvah, has served as part-time boxing adviser and full-time role model at The Kushner Yeshiva High School in Livingston, N.J. Meeting Salita, says Rabbi Richard Kirsch, guidance counselor and athletic director, “transformed” the students. “To see a religious boxer … so proud of his heritage … was mesmerizing.”
Ezra USA, an outreach program for Jewish teens from the former Soviet Union, named its new youth center in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, for Salita for the same reason. Salita, who e-mailed a call for prayers after his rabbinic adviser, Zalman Liberov of Chabad of Flatbush, was seriously injured in an automobile accident last year, is founding his Shield of David/Salita Foundation, which will fund that Chabad location and the Brooklyn gym — “the two organizations that have had the greatest impact on my life” — and sponsor athletic-educational programs for public school teens.
Good reading: Salita’s favorite sports book is “No Man Stands Alone,” an autobiography of 1930s boxing champion Barney Ross. “The struggle of his life and his greatness in the ring is a great story,” he says.
D.C. invites: A guest at a 2004 Chanukah celebration in the White House, he was invited to a Jewish American Heritage Month ceremony there last month.
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