Yuri Foreman was about eight years old, living in the former Soviet Union, when he decided to become a professional boxer. After other kids bullied him, Foreman’s mom took him to a boxing gym so he could learn how to defend himself.
“Once I stepped into the gym, I felt something change about me, and I fell in love with the sport,” Foreman told BK Reader.
His dream solidified after seeing a video at a theater in his native Belarus of Brownsville’s Iron Mike Tyson delivering a methodical beating of Donovan “Razor” Ruddock in a 1991 heavyweight match.
“I hadn't seen anything like that before,” Foreman exclaimed with the an excitement as if it happened yesterday. “I was like, 'That's my sport!'
"I believed that I was going to be a world champion.”
Fast forward to 2009. Foreman, who had immigrated with his family to Israel, became the first Israeli fighter to win a world boxing championship. The then-rabbinical student defeated Daniel Santos in a WBA super-welterweight title bout, knocking down his opponent in the second round en route to a one-sided decision, as the Los Angeles Times reported.
Today, Foreman is a Crown Heights resident and ordained rabbi spreading the gospel of healthy eating: He recently launched a unique vegan Kosher certification business with his wife Shoshana Foreman.
At the same time, he’s making a comeback to professional boxing.
Boxing rabbi’s comeback
At age 41, Foreman is trying to regain his championship form. After a sound thrashing of Santos, Foreman suffered a knee injury in a 2010 bout that he lost to Miguel Cotto in Yankee Stadium.
With his wife Shoshana at his side as his manager, Foreman has been training with the aim of regaining a boxing title.
Foreman, dubbed the “Boxing Rabbi,” was studying to become an ordained rabbi at the height of his boxing career.
“I was learning more and more about Judaism and my roots,” he explained. “I got more and more interested, and I decided I would like to study more in-depth. It was my spiritual, personal journey.”
Foreman applies the insight he’s gained as a motivational spiritual speaker at events hosted by Jewish and non-Jewish organizations.
From his perspective, there’s no contradiction between the peace that Judaism and other religions promote and the brutality of boxing.
In Judaism, there are a lot of laws about not hurting other human beings and not hurting yourself,” he stated. “Boxing is a dangerous sport, but there are other aspects. For example, boxing is your job, and both boxers sign a contract to participate in a match.”
He has learned how to balance those two worlds by separating them. “When it's time to fight, you need to be wearing a different mask and become a totally different person."
His regimen starts everyday at 5:00am, with an eight-mile run every other day before heading to a Sunset Park gym. He returns home for breakfast, reading and daily prayer before heading back to the gym later in the day.
Vegan kosher business: a ‘passion project’
Foreman became a vegetarian, gradually, after surgery to repair his knee following the 2010 bout. At that time, he was deep into his rabbinical studies that involved reading tons of literature about Jewish dietary laws. One article stood out in his mind, written by a Jewish scholar about 400 years ago, about the prohibition of mixing meat with dairy.
Presented in a spiritual context, it said that meat represents the energy of death, and dairy represents the energy of life.
“While I was reading, I asked myself why do I need the energy of death, to begin with? And that's when I started to slowly quit consuming any kind of meat,” he recalled.
Four years later, he met Shoshana, who had been a vegan already for 17 years. Shoshana's expertise in creating vegan dishes made it easier for him to take the next step.
In May, the Foremans established VBR Kosher (Vegan Boxing Rabbi), a company that provides kosher certification to vegan eateries.
They work with Rabbi Mike Moskowitz, who serves as VBR Kosher’s official supervising rabbi. Their first certification went to Dun-Well Doughnuts in Bushwick, and there are other vegan establishments in the pipeline.
VBR Kosher is a labor of love for the Foremans with a mission to educate people about the importance of having healthy nutrition, as well as mental and spiritual health.
They plan to launch a website at the top of 2022 where visitors can access their podcast, videos and other content about keeping kosher and being vegan.