Jeremy Fine, contributing blogger
Jeremy Fine is currently the Assistant Rabbi at Temple of Aaron in St. Paul Minnesota. He was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Even though living in Minnesota, Jeremy is a Chicago guy through and through. He loves deep dish and The Chicago White Sox. His blog www.thegreatrabbino.com combines his two passions: Judaism and sports. He’s really excited to be a part of the Oy! team. If you have any questions or comments email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ARTICLES BY THIS AUTHOR
For generations Jews celebrated the storied baseball careers of Sandy Koufax and Hank Greenberg. Since then Jews have longed for more Jewish athletes. And in 2009 we look around the MLB, NFL, and NBA and see several Jews atop their sports. In Boston, Kevin Youkilis trots the bases after each home run; Jordan Farmar of the Los Angeles Lakers hoisted the NBA Championship trophy; and Igor Olshansky makes bone-crushing sacks for the Dallas Cowboys.
In 2005 when Maccabi Tel Aviv beat the Toronto Raptors the world took notice of Israeli basketball. While it might have only been an exhibition game and meaningless to the Raptors, it was enormous for Maccabi Tel Aviv and Israel. At the time Maccabi Tel Aviv was led by Anthony Parker, who got noticed during that game and eventually signed with the Raptors. Although Parker was not Israeli, or even Jewish, his ability to take an Israeli team to the next level has changed the game in our homeland forever.
So, it’s tournament time. Everyone is frantically filling out their brackets, hoping to gain pride and maybe some cash. Everyone has a different strategy for picking the Final Four. Some people pick underdogs, some pick according to mascots, and some pick by using what they think is knowledge yet always end up losing. Well, The Great Rabbino has decided to help you out.
From the second day of Passover through Shavuot Jews count each day with a special prayer (49 days total). The time in between the holidays (Exodus from Egypt to receiving the Torah) is called the Omer. During the Omer people study pirkei avot, don't shave (notice some of your rabbis will have longer beards), and don't get haircuts.
A while back I posted the top 10 best Jews in sports. But today TGR takes a look at the most important Jews in sports. This includes more than just players. I searched owners, executives, players (current and retired), sportswriters, commissioners, and anyone else related to the sports world. See what you think about the list below.
During all the Blackhawk craziness in Chicago I searched and searched for a Jewish connection. Recently, I tracked down former Jewish Blackhawk Steve Dubinsky, who is still involved in the game through his sons and youth hockey. He was a really nice guy to talk to and still a big Hawks fan. Check out my interview with Dubinsky and celebrate the Hawks big win all over again.
With superstars Jon Scheyer and Slyven Landesberg on to bigger and better things, this year we look to some unknowns in NCAA basketball. Last year's senior class was impressive. So who is going to step up and be our next hope at a Jewish NBA star? Well, this year’s All-TGR team does not have a pro prospect for next year. But, it has plenty of talent and is led by a budding star.
Recently, TGR caught up with former Jewish MLBer Norm Miller. Miller played mainly for the Astros and finished his career in 1974 with the Atlanta Braves. He played with Hank Aaron and was there when he hit the home run to break Babe Ruth's record. Miller was nice enough to grant us an interview. Check it out below.
I am clearly out of my NFL playoff bracket. My NFC pick, Da Bears, are still alive and well, but I’m 1-3 in the opening round, and the Patriots losing did me in. However, I did pick the Steelers at the beginning of the season...so that kind of counts. Nevertheless, The Great Rabbino goes on. Today we look at the Top 10 Jewish connections left in the NFL playoffs.
Chicago has had its share of great athletes—Michael Jordan, Frank Thomas, and Stan Mikita to name a few. The Bears have probably been the richest of the Chicago teams, with players like Walter Payton, Gayle Sayers, and Dick Butkus.
Growing up in the northern suburbs of Chicago there was one athlete everyone knew, his name was Ryan Hogan. Hogan played basketball at Deerfield and was a stud. I still recall stories of Rick Pitino arriving in a limo to Deerfield High School to get Hogan to commit.
From time to time I miss a player. Last year I missed this guy, Alex Hoffman-Ellis. Good size, competitive edge. The Great Rabbino likes this linebacker. He has gone up against some of college football's best.
With the Phillies' Joe Blanton headed to the 60 day DL and Placido Polanco going to the 15 day DL they called up Michael Schwimer (no relationship to David or so we think). Schwimer was 9-1 in AAA with 10 Saves and a 1.88 ERA. He had 86 strikeouts in 67 innings.
While it would be easy to ignore the craze, Tim Tebow-mania is everywhere. As I like to say, he is the "best, worst player I have ever seen." While he throws a horrible deep ball, he misses receivers like no one else ever has, and his reckless style will eventually get him hurt, the kid is a winner. Tebow wins.
The NBA is up and running. Omri Casspi is starting, but without very impressive numbers and Jordan Farmar remains a solid backup on the verge of leading a team. Since everything is status quo with our current star NBA players, The Great Rabbino begs to ask the question, “who is next?” (Not a Goldberg reference).
Over the last three years The Great Rabbino has been giving you the Jewish NCAA Bracket. In the first year I brought you a winner—Duke and Cornell helped produce those results. Last year I was in the middle of the pack. I used various methods from Jewish numbering, players, and Hillel sizes.
Mazel Tov to the newest Jew in the NFL, Mitchell Schwartz. Schwartz was drafted early in the second round with pick #37 by the Cleveland Browns. The Browns believe Schwartz can play opposite Joe Thomas and block for both first round picks Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden. Read more about Mitchell here.
He is young, humble, and most importantly, good. While the Jewish world was sparked by the Padres 7th pick in the draft Max Fried, it is Max Ungar who might be the most important Jewish pick in the entire draft. Ungar went in the 36th round (not quite the 7th pick) to his hometown Washington Nationals.
Mitch Glasser is not just living out his dream, he is living out mine. Born and raised in Chicago, he moved to Minnesota and then got drafted by his favorite team, the Chicago White Sox. Seriously, I could not have scripted it any better. Mitch is a great guy and motivated by his dream of playing for the Sox (or running them someday).
On Saturday, October 13th around 10:45a.m., congregants at the Temple of Aaron in St. Paul, Minnesota might have noticed something a little different about their pulpit. Their rabbis passed the sermon this week to Maccabi Haifa head basketball coach Brad Greenberg.
This year's Baseball Hall of Fame ballot has been released and it's headlined by Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. Both will be a true test to the steroid era as Bonds and Clemens are arguably the best hitter and pitcher respectively who ever lived (please note that I wrote arguably).
There are not too many great Jewish NFL moments to write about, the highlight being Adam Podlesh's two-point conversion. Most of our great Jewish NFLers are Offensive Linemen (we are not complaining). Here is how everyone checked out.
My grandmother, Row Row, called me the other day and began our conversation with, "I am mad at you." Now there are few things in this world that I am sure about and one of those is that my Row Row could never be mad at me. I responded, "Row Row what did I do?"
Over the last few years the NFL draft has brought us some great stories— starting with Taylor Mays and Gabe Carimi. Last year, Mitchell Schwartz got all the press, while Alex Hoffman-Ellis and Alex Gottlieb drew some attention, as well. This year, we have Sam Schwartzstein out of Standford.
On the day of another end to March Madness, The Great Rabbino wanted to do something special. So we caught up with former Michigan basketball player Ron Garber. Ron is a great guy and plays in my Sunday night basketball game in St. Paul. Besides throwing down two massive dunks last night, he had several blocked shots including one on my buddy Dan which was for all intents and purposes a volleyball spike.
Around the country, Jewish basketball is growing rapidly with tournaments, the Maccabiah Games and even websites such as Jewish Hoops America and Jewish Coaches. But while high school and even the college ranks continue to grow, the last few years in the NBA that brought us hope for sustained Jewish basketball on a professional level have quickly evaporated.
A few years back I interviewed then-NCAA basketball newbie Jake Cohen. As the NCAA tournament came around and Davidson University was about to shock the world (which they unfortunately didn't), my phone blew up with friends texting about Cohen's heritage. Cohen played great for the second year in a row and gained major attention. So the obvious question is, will he go in this year's NBA draft?
AJ Kirsch is on the upward swing of his career. You might remember him from WWE's Tough Enough with Stone Cold Steve Austin. He was also a candidate for TNA's Gut Check. Kirsch is an independent wrestler and promotes Hoodslam Wrestling. Although he did not grow up strictly Jewish per se, his father's whole family is Jewish and he was just interviewed by Larry King (so that's cool).
At Dodgers Stadium, which is in Los Angeles – the second-largest Jewish community in the United States—we could not find kosher food. Although I’m told the stadium does offer kosher alternatives, how is it possible that the Minnesota Twins can have a kosher
cart but not the Dodgers?
We heard about this story a while back. “Jewish kid makes Michigan football team.” But Alex Swieca’s story is much more than being a great athlete. He was in Israel playing flag football before making it onto the Wolverine squad and no less as a quarterback.
I’ve written plenty of stories on wrestling, usually pro wrestling. In fact, I expand to boxing from time to time with stories on various boxers like Yuri Foreman and Dmitry Salita. But meet Marina Shafir – one of the toughest women I know – well – sort of know. She is a MMA fighter looking to make an impact. Below is her story. Pay attention because she is going places.
Last year, honestly, we struggled to find Jewish stories in the NBA as Omri Casspi declined and Jordan Farmar left for Turkey. Not this year! With both players back, one literally and the other mentally, it’s time to look at the top 10 stories going into this (Jewish) NBA season.
Former Jewish Major League Baseball player Brad Ausmus was tagged to replace Jim Leyland as the new manager of the Detroit Tigers. Ausmus inherits a mega lineup featuring Miguel Cabrera, Torii Hunter and ace pitchers in Justin Verlander and 2013 American League Cy Young winner Max Scherzer.
For the last five years, The Great Rabbino has tried to bring to you the best in Jewish-related sports content. Now, we are turning the tables a bit to bring you the best in sports-related Jewish content – specifically rabbis.
As my congregants know I have a wall full of Jewish MLB rookie cards hanging in my office. A congregant walks into my office, looks at the hanging cards and says "hey, that's Justin." Of course, I immediately asked for his contact information and Justin was gracious enough to answer some questions.
You may have seen this amazing piece of artwork. Greg Harris has really drawn up some amazing interest and excitement through his project, Jewish Baseball Player.com. Connected to this achievement has been his ability to help non-profits raise money.
The biggest Jewish sports news of the summer is a huge “mazel tov” to Maccabi Tel Aviv for winning the Euroleague Basketball Championship. This is an incredible accomplishment; Israel went crazy after the historic victory.
Recently, I went to Atlanta to see Turner Field and the Braves and I was disappointed that they lacked a kosher hot dog. So below is an updated list of kosher stands (some unconfirmed) at various baseball stadiums, their supervision, and products.
It’s not fantasy football, but it is a football fantasy made real. Israel is going to the gridiron. Meet Betzalel Friedman, the commissioner of the Israeli Football League. Some of you, myself included, played flag football while studying in Israel on the beautiful Kraft Field in Jerusalem. Well, things are taking off.
The baseball season might be long over, but the excitement is just beginning. While the White Sox and Cubs have made some really solid moves so far (Zack Duke and Adam LaRoche are coming to the South Side, while manager Joe Madden heads to the Cubs), Jewish ballplayers have been on the move as well.
Congratulations to Super Bowl champions the New England Patriots, whose owner Robert Kraft and star receiver Julian Edelman (who went for over 100 yards receiving in the Super Bowl) have shown considerable passion for Israel.
Since Sid Luckman, the NFL has not seen its share of great Jewish players. Julian Edelman, Taylor Mays and a slew of offensive linemen have recently sparked our interest, but not too long ago, there was a man under center who was all the craze. His name was Jay Fiedler.
After seeing Josh Gershon pop up on Twitter, I knew we had to be in touch. The man is living a dream -- his dream and I am sure many of your dreams: scouting the future of basketball.
There are a lot of guys who’ve made it to the Bigs -- that is an accomplishment in its own right -- but only a small percentage of those players have been Jewish. Meet Jason Hirsh. He might not have had the longest MLB career but he played against the likes of Albert Pujols and Barry Bonds. Not the easiest guys to pitch against.
Summer Mitzvah Mania offers one-time volunteer opportunities during June, July, and August. Projects vary in scope with plenty of family-friendly and inter-generational options. Whether you come as a group or on your own, there is something for everyone! Join TOV to make a difference in your community. Space is limited.
To sign up for a project, call TOV at (312) 357-4762 or register online.
Stanton Park, 618 W. Scott St.
Tuesday evenings starting at 6:30 p.m.
Join YLD for a Co-Ed Softball League! This league is about playing a sport AND supporting a great cause, the Jewish United Fund. The season will include 6 regular season games and 2 weeks of playoffs. After the games, teams can walk over to the sponsor bar for drinks, socializing and fun!
Regular season games:
July 14, 21, 28
August 4, 11, 18
August 25, September 1