Get to know Jewish Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman

At the 2012 Olympics, Raisman became the first American woman to win a gold medal in the floor competition for her performance to “Hava Nagila.”
Gold medalist Alexandra Raisman of the United States poses on the podium during the medal ceremony for the Artistic Gymnastics Women's Floor Exercise final on Day 11 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at North Greenwich Arena on August 7, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

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At just 28 years old, Aly Raisman has won six Olympic medals, testified in front of Congress, written a best-selling memoir and used her platform as a vocal advocate for sexual abuse survivors.

With six Olympic medals, she is the third-most decorated American Olympic gymnast behind Shannon Miller and former teammate Simone Biles

For many, Raisman is a paragon of poise, strength and excellence, but did you know she’s also a proud Jew?

Here’s everything we know about the American gymnast’s Jewish identity.

Aly Raisman of the United States competes during the Women’s Floor Final at Rio Olympic Arena on August 16, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

The basics

Alexandra “Aly” Raisman was born in Needham, Mass., to Rick and Lynn Raisman, a former high school gymnast. She grew up in a Romanian Jewish household, celebrating all the Jewish holidays and became a bat mitzvah in 2007.

Raisman began her gymnastics training when she was 18 months old at a mommy-and-me class. She fell in love with the sport while watching reruns of the “Magnificent Seven,” the gold medal-winning U.S. women’s gymnastics team from the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. 

“From the moment I watched the 1996 Olympic gymnastics team competition, I knew I wanted to go to the Olympics one day. I had no idea how much work it would take to get there and how hard it would be, but…the best thing about being a kid is that no dream is too big!” Raisman told Greater Boston’s Jewish Journal.

She began competing for the U.S. National Team at age 15. Today, Raisman boasts an impressive record as a three-time World Champion medallist and an eight-time U.S. National Champion medallist.

Among her many accomplishments, she is most famous for captaining both the 2012 “Fierce Five” and 2016 “Final Five” Olympic teams, both of which won gold medals in the team event.

“Ever since the 2012 Olympics, I’ve been really able to connect Jewish fans all over the world. I take a lot of pride in being able to not only represent the U.S.A, but also the Jewish community,” she told New York Jewish Week

Raisman won a gold medal for her performance to “Hava Nagila”

At the 2012 Olympics in London, the Massachusetts-native became the first American woman to win a gold medal in the floor competition for her performance to “Hava Nagila.” She dedicated the routine to the 11 Israeli Olympians who were killed in the 1972 Munich Massacre

“I’m Jewish, so I thought it would be really nice to use Hava Nagila,” Raisman explained. “And it’s a song the whole crowd can clap to, so for Olympic trials, there are about 20,000 people in the arena, and all of them clapping is an amazing feeling and it gives me a kind of extra boost of confidence and energy.”

She also won a bronze medal on the balance beam. 

Raisman officially retired from competitive gymnastics on Jan. 14, 2020.

Raisman was inducted into the National Jewish Hall of Fame 

In 2013, she was inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in a ceremony that took place in Netanya, Israel, several days before the start of the Maccabiah Games. She was also inducted into the National Jewish Hall of Fame that same year. 

Raisman then traveled to Jerusalem to light the 2013 Maccabiah Games flame: “I was honored to be invited to be a part of the Maccabiah Games, and it was very special to be able to light the torch… [My family and I] had a great time and it’s certainly something that we’ll never forget,” she said. 

Raisman uses her voice to advocate for sexual abuse survivors.

The Jewish gymnast has also used her platform to advocate for justice. In Nov. 2017, Raisman became one of 1000 former gymnasts who came forward about the sexual abuse they experienced by former USA Gymnastics and Olympic team doctor, Larry Nassar. 

Raisman delivered a powerful impact statement at Nassar’s sentencing in Jan. 2018. She discussed the trauma she experienced by Nassar and how coming forward allowed her to find her voice once again.

“Larry, you do realize now that we, this group of women you so heartlessly abused over such a long period of time, are now a force and you are nothing. The tables have turned, Larry. We are here. We have our voices, and we are not going anywhere,” she said. 

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