The idea of a Jewish curling team might evoke images of the Jamaican bobsled team in “Cool Runnings,” but Tedd Lookatch of Mequon is determined to assemble one.
“I always thought it would be cool to have a team of all Jewish people,” he says.
Lookatch has been curling for about 15 years at the Milwaukee Curling Club in Cedarburg. He’s one of a handful of Jews there, but wants to share his passion for the sport with his broader Jewish community.
Lookatch’s dream of an all-Jewish curling team isn’t unprecedented. There’s a fledgling Israeli team, which first competed on the international stage in fall 2014, winning a C-Group silver medal at the European Curling Championships.
The Israeli Curling Federation recruited team members from the U.S. and Canada, and Lookatch says he was among a group to meet with the ICF at an event in Chicago in early 2014.
But although Lookatch didn’t make the Israeli team, he found himself on an all-Jewish team at the Milwaukee Curling Club in 2016. Lookatch’s oldest son, Noah, now age 22, came in to replace an injured player on Lookatch’s competitive men’s team. The team’s other two players, Gabe Ziskin and Ian Stall, also happened to be Jewish.
The team split after the season. Lookatch believes it was the club’s first all-Jewish curling team, but with the club’s history dating back to 1845, it’s difficult to know for sure. But, the experience inspired Lookatch get more Jews involved in the sport.
“My dream now is to have our men’s Brotherhood come out on the ice for an event,” says Lookatch, who’s a member of Congregation Sinai in Fox Point. “I’d like to get my rabbi out there.”
Win or lose, you schmooze
Curling originated in 16th-century Scotland, but modern curling culture has characteristics that Jews — and Wisconsinites — can appreciate.
The sport, which draws comparisons to shuffleboard, bowling and chess, is taxing enough to make you break a sweat but accessible enough for players of all ages.
“If you’re doing it right, you should have a little exhaustion afterwards,” Lookatch says, but later adds: “It’s not like we’re trying to field a competitive football team. It’s a lifetime sport.”
Curling also emphasizes sportsmanship: Matches start and end with a handshake, and players call their own fouls.
Finally, every game ends with a custom called broomstacking, which is essentially schmoozing: Members of opposing teams sit together to talk, drink beer and munch on packed-from-home snacks like cheese and crackers.
“The sport is all about camaraderie and tradition,” Lookatch says. “I think it fits in with a lot of Jewish values.”