The one sport that Jews love most is baseball. They love the tradition, the history, and the fact that their own can play. Most Jewish boys are given their father’s favorite team’s hat right out of the womb. In my case my father had two rules growing up: marry Jewish and your wife should be a White Sox fan. Check and check. Maybe we love baseball because Sandy Koufax and Hank Greenberg allowed Jewish boys and girls, men and women, to feel like baseball was their sport.
In 2001 when Shawn Green skipped his team’s game on Yom Kippur it brought back nostalgic memories and stories of Sandy Koufax. And today we linger for another great Jewish ball player, whose Judaism means as much as his batting average.
Many of us see that quality in Milwaukee Brewer Ryan Braun. Jews all over the country refer to him as “The Hebrew Hammer”, a title given to him after the movie starring Adam Goldberg and Andy Dick (sweet casting). And once again our pride has been restored. Sure there are other players and even All Stars like Kevin Youkilis, Ian Kinsler, and Brad Ausmus, but Braun is the best. He is the chosen one.
I too have felt pride for Braun, but recently my Rabbi told me that, Braun is in fact not a Halachic Jew (Jewish law which states the mother needs to a Jewish). So I decided to do some research.
“Braun's father is Jewish and his mother is not Jewish. Although raised in no faith, he is clearly proud of his Jewish background as you can see in this recent interview with the The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle.
My statement that Braun was raised in "no faith" was based on information I received from the editors of the Jewish Sports Review, the most reliable and authoritative source on the Jewish heritage of athletes. They had received this information from Braun's college coach, who had got it from Braun, himself.” – Nate Bloom of www.interfaithfamily.com
The article continued:
“Then, on Aug. 28, USA Today Sports Weekly had a profile of Ryan Braun. About his Jewish background, the profile says:
Diane [his mother] has a much stronger connection to the major leagues than to her job. She grew up in the home where Detroit Tigers slugger Hank Greenberg once lived.
…Joe Braun was born in Tel Aviv, Israel, and came to the U.S.A. at age 7. Diane was raised Catholic … Ryan was not raised Jewish and never had a bar mitzvah, but suddenly he's hearing from Jewish organizations claiming him as their own.
"He's totally not Jewish," Diane says, "I heard some organization started called him, "The Hebrew Hammer." I said, 'Oh no.' My mother would be rolling over in her grave if she heard that."
"Ryan [Diane says] is proud that people want to claim him now, but where were they before? You know how that stuff works."
So I guess it seems clear that Braun’s father is a Jew and his mother isn’t. Clearly they were not a family that practiced or preached Judaism in the home. So, can we can we believe in Braun?
With the attention Braun is getting it seems that Judaism is finally on his mind. With the chants of “Hebrew Hammer” and the recognition he is getting I am sure he thinks about his Jewish heritage.
The debate is settled; Braun is a Jew to some and a non-Jew to others. But whatever he is and whatever religion he practices or believes in, he is one hell of a baseball player.
And Let Us Say…Amen.