Baseball more than a game in ‘going … going … GONE!’


In 1958, the Dodgers’ first season in Los Angeles, 8-year-old Ken Levine got a hometown baseball team and his first taste of legendary play-by-play announcer Vin Scully. The rest is history. 

“Most kids grow up wanting to be ballplayers. When I first heard (Scully), I knew I wanted to be an announcer,” Levine said, beaming from behind a plate of eggs and biscuits inside John O’Groats on Pico Boulevard. 

The press box of a Los Angeles baseball stadium provides the backdrop for Levine’s third playwriting effort, “Going … Going … GONE!” The baseball-centered stage play is set for its world premiere at the Hudson Guild Theatre in Hollywood on Oct. 1, continuing through Nov. 6. 

In a television, film and broadcasting career that has spanned more than 30 years, the Emmy-winning Levine, 66, has served as the head writer of “M*A*S*H,” produced “Cheers,” co-created three sitcoms of his own, and has spent the last 20 years doing radio/TV play-by-play for the Baltimore Orioles, Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres. He also served as host of “Dodger Talk” on the Los Angeles sports radio station KLAC-AM for eight years. Levine even shared broadcasting duties via simulcast for a Dodgers spring training game with his idol Scully — the crown jewel of his accomplishments, he says. 

Levine’s play blends poignancy and Neil Simon-esque comedy and is grounded in rich characterizations. Set over the course of one long, extra-inning game, the lives of four very different sports media personalities — Shana, a female sideline reporter; Dennis, a first-time official scorer; Big Jim, a blogger; and Mason, an L.A. Times reporter — are changed forever while covering the game. 

The central idea of the play was the impetus for Levine, rather than characters or plot — a rarity in Levine’s writing process. 

“I wrote the play backward in the sense that usually when I write anything — a television episode, a film or a play — I have an idea and see the potential of it. I work on characters and plot out the story, then start writing it. As I write it, theme generally emerges. You see what it’s really about. On this one, I started with the theme first. I started with the notion of how we all want to be remembered, which I call my mid-AARP crisis.” 

The sharp-edged, rhythmic banter of Levine’s characters makes for an engaging avenue to explore the concept of legacy. A shocking twist near the end then brings the conversation to a head, raising questions we all find ourselves asking at times — at least inwardly. 

“How important is it to be remembered? What are we trying to be remembered for? How does chasing your legacy impact how you live your life now? That seemed to me like an interesting area for a play,” Levine said. 

For Levine, baseball felt like the natural backdrop. But he foresaw one issue early on: how to show the game being played. The solution he concocted provided the play’s unique take on a baseball narrative. 

“I landed upon baseball because it’s a sport built around history and milestones and passing that on from generation to generation more than any other sport. As it just so happens, I’ve been a baseball announcer for close to 30 years. It’s a subject I know well. The problem with baseball plays or movies is usually you need to see the game. I figured out a way of seeing the game without seeing the field. Once I decided to center it on the press box, the play began taking shape.” 

Although the play’s characters are technically on the job, very little actual work is being done, with the game mostly an afterthought. For example, Dennis, the official scorer for the game, often misses key plays on the diamond. A few elements of the game manage to slip into the action up in the press box — some interplay with the announcer and a hilarious gag involving the national anthem come to mind. 

Though Levine admits to exaggerating certain elements for comedic effect, he insists his depiction of the press box — the practical jokes, ruthless digs, blatant sexism and political incorrectness — is mostly true. In fact, the play’s four characters are all loosely based on people Levine has come across while covering baseball. It was territory he mined that felt ripe for theatrics. 

“When I hosted ‘Dodger Talk,’ I would do the pre- and postgame show. During the game, I’d sit in the press box with all the reporters and many, many nights they were way more entertaining than the game.”

On the flip side, the play doesn’t pull punches when alluding to pop culture portrayals of sportswriters and reporters. Even Neil Simon, whom Levine credits as a major influence, can’t escape ridicule. 

Mason, the L.A. Times reporter, at one point remarks, “How could Oscar cover the Mets and still host a weekly poker game?” referencing Walter Matthau’s Oscar Madison character in Simon’s “The Odd Couple.” And Big Jim, a blogger for “Balls dot com,” asks, “How could Ray cover the Yankees and never leave his house?” implicating Ray Romano’s character in “Everybody Loves Raymond.” 

The play is currently in rehearsal under the helm of Andrew Barnicle, the former longtime artistic director of the Laguna Playhouse. Barnicle directed Levine’s last play, “A or B,” for the Falcon Theater. Citing his admiration for Barnicle’s directing style, the familiarity present in the pair’s working relationship and a shared love of baseball, Levine said Barnicle was his clear-cut first choice to direct his latest play. Levine is present at rehearsals, “a fly on the wall,” as he puts it, making minimal changes to the script when called upon. 

“The last thing the actors need is two directors,” Levine said. 

With the play set to premiere Oct. 1, Levine is adamant that baseball simply provides the framework and hopes that his story, its characters and the prevailing comedy will make the production widely accessible. 

“Baseball is just the backdrop of the play. You don’t have to love baseball to enjoy it. This is about the characters and their lives. Hopefully, it’s very funny.”

Levine then pauses, stirs his iced tea with his straw, ruminating on this, and finally adds:

“I was on ‘Cheers’ for nine years. Think of these characters as Norm and Cliff, and all the idiots at the bar.” 

For more information and tickets, visit plays441.com.

Where have you gone, Vin Scully?


It was a hot August afternoon, and I sat nestled in the corner of a tent at Camp Ramah, in Ojai, California.  Distant sounds of rock music wafted across the boys’ shetach (area), mingled with the laughing voices of kids horsing around.  The rhythmic, satisfying “whoop” of baseballs hitting soft leather. One boy wrote a letter, another read, and a couple more of us listened to a transistor radio.  It was lazy, it was innocent, and it was 1974.

“His name is spelled L-O-P-E-S,” sang the lead lyrical soundtrack to that tranquil memory.  “He pronounces it “Lopes, not Lopez.  So welcome to the big time, Davey!”  And thus did Vin Scully introduce Davey Lopes to thousands of Dodger baseball fans throughout Southern California.  Just one of thousands of introductory moments that would be repeated for generations in this part of the country.

Vin Scully has since been recognized as the greatest broadcaster in baseball, if not sports, history.  In his final home game this past Sunday, after 67 years as the voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers, he went out in dramatic fashion.  His final call at Chavez Ravine was a division winning, walk off tenth inning home run by little known infielder Charlie Culberson.   He coined one more classic line as his golden voice soared above the roar of the crowd:  “Would you believe a home run?” he teased, as the Dodgers celebrated with wild abandon.

Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Charlie Culberson hits a walk off solo home run in the tenth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium. Photo by Gary A. Vasquez-USA Today Sports via Reuters

For those who grew up in Southern California, Vin Scully is a link to the mist of our collective past.  He bore witness to the groundbreaking physical and moral genius of Jackie Robinson.  He introduced us to a young, flamethrowing lefthander who would soon teach us all what it meant to feel pride in being Jewish at mid-century, not even 20 years following the Holocaust.  When the Dodgers brought baseball to Los Angeles, it was Vin Scully who gently showed us the ropes.

But his appeal, and the iconic veneration we have witnessed over the past couple weeks, go well beyond that. 

We celebrate, in a word, his decency.

Scully once described an opposing player’s nagging injury: “Andre Dawson has a bruised knee, and is listed as day to day,” he told us one summer afternoon in 1991.  “Aren’t we all?”  Sandy Koufax described last week how Scully was unfailingly kind to players from both dugouts, and how his decency overshadowed even the technical lyricism of his narration.  Scully delighted in the diverse world he witnessed around him—the “Wild Horse” from Cuba, the astounding Mexican pitcher, the polite yet fiercely competitive future Hall of Fame pitcher from Texas, the professor of kinesiology who would win a Cy Young Award, a baby in the crowd.  Anyone.  Vin Scully delighted in the miracle of the human spirit.  In interviews, even now, he regularly remarks how blessed he has been by God. 

It is no wonder that Vin Scully’s retirement hits us so hard.  To appreciate Scully’s decency is to also recognize the medium through which his values are transmitted: the languid pace of a baseball game.  And in 2016, paradoxically, we have a diminished appreciation for baseball and its slower pace—we need the more brutal and faster paced options of football and basketball.  We will genuinely miss Vin Scully, yet we as a community are losing patience for the lyrical stories that were his stock in trade, or the focused time and attention they demand.  We have no patience for extended rumination—we live our lives in short bursts of texts and tweets. We have no interest in narration devoid of edge, irony, slickness, or meanness.  We have no patience, in other words, for the breeding grounds of decency.

The High Holy Days recognize the complexity of what it means to be human — our positive and negative inclinations; our yetzer tov and yetzer hara. Both as individuals and as a society, we struggle between the twin poles of these inclinations.  How is it, we wonder, that we can long for the simple decency of a figure like Vin Scully, yet so consistently deny ourselves the conditions upon which that decency can thrive?  And how do find ourselves in the situation we do on the eve of this unprecedented election?

We have managed to anoint as one of the two principal nominees for president a man who demonstrates virtually no shred of this basic American decency.  We fear living in a world without the voice of Vin Scully because we rightly perceive ourselves slipping into a portal of unprecedented ugliness.  We have managed to nominate a man who delights in mocking the movements of a physically disabled reporter, whose reputation is based, in part, upon attacking the physical appearance of women, as the next president of the United States.  Imagine that.  We are about to lose a man who showed us each night what it means to regard each person as having been created in the image of God, and we may gain a leader who appears to believe that he alone was created in that image. 

This is not a partisan issue at all. Barack Obama speaks with intelligence and vision.  John McCain and Bob Dole were genuine American heroes, who sacrificed in ways most of us can only imagine.  Al Gore and the Bushes came from families that devoted decades of life to public service.  Ronald Reagan brought style, grace, and the force of focused political principles to the office. Even the Clintons have devoted their entire lives to charity and public service; the criticisms of their behavior are of an entirely different magnitude from the sadistic meanness we see dripping from the character of the Republican nominee. Choosing our leaders has never before meant a wholesale abandonment of principles of simple decency.

“Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?” we once asked ourselves. “Our nation turns its lonely heart to you.”  In the twilight of 2016, we say farewell to a man who has soothed our souls for 67 years, and we may very well ask him that same question.  We enter these High Holy Days and this crucial election struggling with the maddening mystery of our collective time:  How can we, as a society, so venerate the simple decency of Vin Scully, yet simultaneously indulge our worst inclinations to embrace cruelty, bigotry and bullying as the desired traits of our leaders?  It is 2016, and we have sinned indeed. 

It was precisely this issue that brought down the last great American demagogue.  “Have you no decency, sir?  At long last, have you no sense of decency?” we finally asked the senatorial inquisitor Sen. Joseph McCarthy in 1954.  We thankfully emerged from that collective stupor, and realized then that decency was indeed a necessary condition for American democracy.  Will we do the same in 2016?

In September 2015, my then 13 year old son caught an A.J. Ellis home run hit over the mid-left field wall.  As my son joyfully reacted with jubilation, and with the cameras trained on him, Vin Scully paused, and with a twinkle in his voice, remarked, “And that youngster is thrilled!  I think he’s also a little shocked he caught the ball— combination.”  That was Vin Scully’s gift to my family.  It was Vin Scully’s gift to all of us to create space in time, to capture the essence of the human condition through the prism of a baseball game.  It is our challenge to recover that spirit, to live by the credo of simple decency, and to demand it from our leaders– even in the face of a culture that demands our ever-increasing slavishness to an unrelenting harshness.


Stuart Tochner is an employment attorney in Los Angeles, and a member of the boards of trustees of Temple Beth Am and Camp Ramah in California.

Los Angeles history: Jews shined among stars on Hollywood minor league team


While the Dodgers battle for a playoff spot with a Jewish player, Joc Pederson, patrolling center field and a Jewish president of baseball operations, Andrew Friedman, heading the front office, let’s turn from the pennant race to recall that the franchise is not Los Angeles’ first baseball team to have Jews in such prominent roles.

In 1938, Herbert Fleishhacker was the Jewish owner of the Hollywood Stars, a minor league team in the Pacific Coast League (PCL) that, beginning in 1939, played at Gilmore Field, near the sites of the Grove and CBS Television City today. He was responsible for bringing the team back to L.A. from San Francisco. (The Stars’ first incarnation played here from 1926-1935.)  Through the team’s run, which ended in 1957, Jews filled key roles on the field, with players such as infielder Murray “Moe” Franklin, outfielder Herb Gorman, pitcher Herb Karpel and former longtime catcher for the New York Giants Harry Danning, who, after his playing days were over, served briefly as a coach.

Off the field, Jews also played an important role in promoting the team.

The stadium, which opened in 1939 and seated nearly 13,000 fans, was located in the heart of the emerging Jewish Fairfax district and drew many Jewish fans, including attorney and local judge Stanley Mosk, who would go on to fame as a long-term associate justice of the California Supreme Court. On the other side of the law, “mobster Mickey Cohen occupied a box right behind the Stars’ dugout,” the Los Angeles Times reported in 2009.

From the late 1930s until the Dodgers arrival from Brooklyn in 1958, L.A. fans were caught up in the rivalry between the Hollywood Stars and their PCL archrivals, the Los Angeles Angels, who played in Wrigley Field, located near USC and now site of the Gilbert Lindsay Recreation Center. To gain access to better players, the Stars worked out an affiliation agreement with the Brooklyn Dodgers for the 1949 season, and after the 1950 season, had one with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

​A 1950 Hollywood Stars team photo includes, in middle row, Murray “Moe” Franklin (far left) and Herb Gorman (fourth from right). Photo courtesy of Mark Macrae Collection

Happily watching many of the Stars’ home games was 9-year-old Bruce Littman.

“We sat in the cheap seats,” Littman said, remembering making the drive with his family from their Compton home to Gilmore Field. “Often, we would go with the CJCC [Compton Jewish Community Center] Men’s Club.” At some games, Littman said, he would even get to see a fellow congregant on the field

“Moe Franklin was a member of the temple,” he said.  “On occasion, [Moe also] played on the [shul’s] men’s club team, but to be honest, the other synagogues objected, understandably,” he said with a laugh.

Franklin (1914-78) was born in Chicago, where, at Schurz High School, he lettered in baseball and soccer. At the University of Illinois, from which he graduated, he was a star player and member of the Jewish fraternity. He was 27 when he played in his first major league game with the Detroit Tigers in 1941. The last game in his brief Tiger career was in 1942. 

“My dad would have had a bigger career [in the majors], but he spent his prime years, ages 28 to 32, in the Navy during the war,” said his son, Dell Franklin, who has written about Moe’s years in baseball.

After World War II, Moe Franklin played for several minor league teams, but his favorite, according to his son, was the Stars: “He thought the team,” which had several other former big leaguers, “was a great mix of guys. They all loved each other.” Exemplifying that relationship, when the elder Franklin wanted to add a room addition onto his Compton home, it was some of his teammates, offseason workers in the building trades, who helped him, the younger Franklin said.

“When I was 7 or 8, my dad would take me to the ballpark,” especially on Saturdays and Sundays, Franklin said, recalling the days spanning the 1949 and ’51 seasons, when his father played for the Hollywood Stars.

A timely team addition, when the Hollywood Stars won the PCL title in 1949, Moe Franklin “had the game-winning homer to clinch the pennant,” his son said, remembering how, during the home games, he got to live out the dream of many boys his age — hanging in the dugout. “The guys all taught me how to play baseball. By the time I was 9, I was playing baseball with 12-year-olds,” he said.

“I couldn’t wait to get down there,” Franklin said. The players nicknamed him “Little Meat,” and, after his dad, “Little Moe.” Though not a batboy, he did help out by cleaning the players’ spikes and conditioning their bats in a process called boning. 

“You get a big bone, almost like a Coke bottle, and you knead the barrel of the bat to get it firm,” explained Franklin, who remembers doing it for Gorman, his father’s roommate on the road and best friend on the team.

Moe Franklin sports the early-’50s “shorties” uniform worn by the Hollywood Stars players. Photo courtesy of Dell Franklin

That friendship was cut short in a shocking manner. In 1953, during a day game, the first of a doubleheader after both Franklin and Gorman had been traded to the San Diego Padres of the PCL, Gorman “had a heart attack out in left field and he died,” Dell Franklin said. “The whole stadium just went hush. My dad and somebody else carried him in. He had a young wife, named Rosalie,” who was at the game. “It was a terrible, terrible day.” 

While with the Stars, Moe Franklin, who never played on Yom Kippur, only experienced anti-Semitism once, Dell Franklin said. When his father was playing third base, “there was a guy who popped off on the Sacramento team. He was in the bullpen and he was getting on Gorman,” who was playing outfield. “When the Sacramento player came in, my dad got up out of the dugout and knocked him on his ass,” Dell said of his father, who was also a championship boxer. 

The elder Franklin also threw the first punch in 1953 when a player for the Stars, attempting to steal third base, where Franklin was playing for the Angels, came in high with spikes — touching off a legendary brawl, broadcast live and later covered in Life magazine, in which 50 police officers were called in to break up the fight.

However, for most of the games, especially those at Gilmore Field, Dell Franklin has more pleasant memories, like seeing at the ballpark the other Hollywood stars, such as Milton Berle, Bob Hope, Kim Novak and Anne Bancroft.

After the 1938 season, Victor Ford Collins, Fleishhacker’s attorney along with Robert H. Cobb, owner of the Brown Derby restaurants, bought the team. “In order to raise funds, the two men formed the Hollywood Baseball Association, and to promote their Hollywood Stars baseball team sold small amounts of stock to numerous Hollywood civic leaders and movie stars,” including George Burns and Grace Allen, Harry Warner, Cecil B. DeMille, William Frawley, Robert Taylor, Barbara Stanwyck, Bing Crosby, Gary Cooper and Gene Autry, according to Stephen M. Daniels, writing for the Society of American Baseball Research.

Helping to get the word out to Los Angeles about the stars, both on the field and off, was their publicity director, Irv Kaze. As part of his job promoting the team, Kaze would get on the phone to stars such as Groucho Marx to let them know when their favorite Stars were going to play, reported Jim McConnell for MILB.com, Kaze, who had a weekly talk show on KRLA (formerly KIEV) from 1992 until his death in 2002. The morning he died, according to a story in the Jewish Journal, “Kaze had attended services at the Congregation Ohev Shalom, where he was a longtime active member.” Kaze was also an inductee and board member of the Southern California Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

The team is still remembered for its “cool” uniforms. “The Hollywood Stars would play in Bermuda shorts,” remembers Littman of the team’s experiment with “shorties” in the early 1950s. 

“I used to wonder what they did when they slid into base,” Littman said. “That’s gotta hurt.”

Moving and Shaking: Jewish Community Day at Dodger Stadium, JCFLA supports Jewish innovation


Wearing a yarmulke, tzitzit and a Sandy Koufax jersey, Rabbi Jason Weiner, senior rabbi and manager of the spiritual care department at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, threw the ceremonial first pitch during Jewish Community Day at Dodger Stadium on Aug. 28 to Joc Pederson, a Jewish team member of the Dodgers. 

Weiner, 38, who pitched in college, admitted to being nervous prior to taking the mound, in an interview with the Journal.

“I didn’t sleep the night before. I was nervous. I don’t normally get nervous about things like this but everyone was talking to me about it beforehand: ‘It’s a big deal, you have to throw a strike.’ Joc, when he caught it, he called it ‘strike,’ ” said Weiner, who played ball for Cal State Monterey Bay.

A Modern Orthodox rabbi, Weiner said that in college he left the team after his coach made his membership contingent on practicing or playing on Shabbat and Jewish holidays.

He wasn’t the only rabbi on the field before the Dodgers took on the Chicago Cubs, a game Los Angeles would win 1-0. The home team also honored U.S. Army National Guard 1st lieutenant and Rabbi David Becker as the military hero of the Sunday afternoon game. 

Rabbi Brad Artson (third from left), dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at American Jewish University, attended Jewish Community Day with his wife, Elana, and two children, Shira and Jacob. Photo courtesy of Rabbi Brad Artson

Cedars-Sinai, an official sponsor of the Dodgers, turned out approximately 40 attendees to the game. Additional congregations and Jewish organizations at the ballpark included IKAR, Congregation Kol Ami and The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ YALA (Young Adults of Los Angeles). Highlights included free T-shirts with “Dodgers” written in Hebrew, Jeff’s Gourmet Sausage Factory kosher hot dogs, and more. 

The line for hot dogs at Jeff’s was already long during the first inning, as the owner, Jeff Rohatiner, and a small staff of employees worked hard to prepare standard kosher hot dogs, kosher jalapeño dogs and kosher Italian sausage dogs. 

“I think this is great to have the opportunity to show solidarity and enjoy the game,” Young Israel of Century City congregant Betsy Tabacznik said while standing in line for a hot dog with her grandsons, Yaakov, 11, and Zev, 10.


The Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles (JCFLA) has awarded $2.3 million to 12 “new Jewish initiatives focused on innovation,” according to an Aug. 16 press release by the foundation, a charitable assets manager and grant-making organization. 

“The 2016 Cutting Edge Grant recipients — the 11th annual class awarded by The Foundation — exemplify creative, unique problem-solving necessary for a vibrant, engaged and caring Jewish Los Angeles,” Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles President and CEO Marvin Schotland said in a statement.

The two largest grants given this year — $250,000 apiece — will fund the Aleph Institute’s Project Tikvah, which addresses incarceration among young adults struggling with mental illness and addiction, and “Connections to Care: Interoperability Platform,” a central hub to manage patient care at the Los Angeles Jewish Home.

Molly Forrest, president and CEO of the Los Angeles Jewish Home, said in a statement: “We are grateful to The Foundation for supporting our efforts to care for more frail seniors in our community. The awarding of the Cutting Edge Grant will enable us to develop the tools necessary to provide coordinated, comprehensive, quality care for vulnerable and at-risk seniors.”

Moving Traditions will receive $200,000 to pilot a b’nai mitzvah program, and the Union for Reform Judaism will receive $100,000 for its 6 Points Sports Academy California.

Other grant recipients this year are Builders of Jewish Education, Honeymoon Israel, the Israeli-American Council, Jerusalem U, The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Jewish Women’s Theatre, Pico Union Project, and Reboot in partnership with IKAR. The grants are distributed over a multiyear period.


Amir Naiberg is now serving as associate vice chancellor for research at UCLA. Photo courtesy of UCLA

Amir Naiberg has been named UCLA’s associate vice chancellor for research, as well as president and CEO of Westwood Technology Transfer, a nonprofit company controlled by UCLA that protects discoveries made by UCLA researchers. He leads the Office of Intellectual Property and Industry Sponsored Research at UCLA.

Naiberg, who joined UCLA on Aug. 3, co-founded the Israel Technology Transfer Organization in 2004. He previously worked for five years as general counsel and 10 years as CEO of Yeda Research and Development Company, the technology transfer company of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.

He holds law degrees from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the University of Connecticut School of Law.


Fred Toczek, president of the board at Shalhevet High School

Fred Toczek has been named president of the board at Shalhevet High School in Los Angeles.

Toczek, an entertainment lawyer whose son, Jacob, graduated from Shalhevet this past year and whose daughter, Sadie, is a Shalhevet sophomore has served on the Modern Orthodox high school’s board for six years.

“I have seen what the school has done, and continues to do, for my children and for so many others, and look forward to my tenure as president,” he said in an Aug. 24 letter to “Shalhevet Family and Friends.” 

He succeeds Larry Gill.


Moving and Shaking highlights events, honors and simchas. Got a tip? Email ryant@jewishjournal.com.

Calendar: August 26 – September 1


FRI | AUG 26

SHABBAT IN THE PARK

Bring your family and friends, a picnic dinner, and come mingle with the community and all of the 16 congregations and Jewish organizations involved. There will be arts and crafts, a drum circle and Torah talks. The Shabbat service will be followed by live music by the Capa’im Band. 4:30 p.m. activities; 6 p.m. service. Free. RSVP at shabbatinthepark.org. Warner Park, 5800 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Woodland Hills. (818) 451-1179. ” target=”_blank”>falcontheatre.com.

SUN | AUG 28

ANNUAL JEWISH COMMUNITY DAY: DODGERS VS. CUBS

It’s time for a day at the ballpark on the 17th annual Jewish Community Day at Dodger Stadium as the Dodgers take on the Cubs. Join EMET and Young Adults of Los Angeles’ (YALA) Ben-Gurion and Chai societies in their field box for the special game, where Senior Chaplain at Cedars-Sinai Rabbi Jason Weiner will throw out the ceremonial first pitch. All attendees will receive a Hebrew Dodgers T-shirt, made especially for the day. Snacks and beverages will be provided, and attendees will also have the opportunity to purchase kosher hot dogs and other stadium favorites. This is a particularly exciting game for baseball fans as the Cubs are currently in first place in the National League Central, and the Dodgers are in a neck-and-neck race in the National League West. Ticket availability is limited. 1:10 p.m. $50; $35 for members of YALA’s Ben-Gurion or Chai societies. Dodger Stadium, 1000 Vin Scully Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 761-8054. ” target=”_blank”>adatshalomla.org.

OPEN FORUM DISCUSSION: YOUNG ADULTS WITH SPECIAL NEEDS

Join this roundtable discussion/open forum for Israeli-American families who have young adults (18 years old and older) with special needs. Come hear about the programming the Israeli American Council (IAC) can help to provide. An ETTA professional, a parent and a regional center representative will be on the panel. Hosted by the IAC and ETTA. Coffee and dessert will be served. 7 p.m. Free. IAC Shepher Community Center, 6530 Winnetka Ave., Woodland Hills. (818) 574-1087. ” target=”_blank”>facebook.com/IVANartgallery.

THURS | SEPT 1

MATTHEW SPECKTOR SIGNS & DISCUSSES EVE BABITZ’S “SLOW DAYS, FAST COMPANY”

Novelist and screenwriter Matthew Specktor, who wrote the introduction for this edition of “Slow Days, Fast Company,” will be presenting and signing the book during this evening. There was a time in the 1960s and ’70s when no one was hotter than Eve Babitz; she seduced seemingly everyone who was anyone in Los Angeles. But there was one man who was elusive and so Babitz wrote him a book. “Slow Days, Fast Company” re-creates a Los Angeles of movie stars distraught over their success, socialites on days-long drug binges and soap-opera actors worried that tomorrow’s script will kill them off. In the end, it doesn’t matter whether Babitz ever gets the guy, because she seduces her audience. 7 p.m. Free. Book Soup, 8818 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood. (310) 659-3110.

NY Mets in the playoffs: Should they be thanking Bernie Madoff?


Having endured a nine-year playoff drought, New York Mets fans are used to blaming Bernie Madoff for the team’s woes.

Madoff’s massive Ponzi scheme, uncovered in 2008, cost the Mets’ owners, Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz, nearly $700 million and forced the team to restructure its payroll and finances. The option of signing premier talent to big-time contracts became suddenly out of the question, leaving loyal fans frustrated.

The Mets’ playoff berth this season, thanks to a promising cadre of young talent, seems to have put the Madoff debacle in the rearview mirror. As the team gets ready to face off against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the MLB National League Division Series (which begins tonight), all eyes are now on the young Mets pitching staff, which some say is historically good.So should Mets fans actually be thankful for the Madoff scheme’s effect on the team?

As Tom Van Riper points out in Forbes, the Madoff scandal forced Mets management to change its strategy in ways that have benefited the team in the long run.

Van Riper’s analysis goes all the way back to the early 1980s, when the Mets were dreadful. Wilpon hired a new general manager, Frank Cashen, who committed to spending multiple years developing a group of talented young players in the team’s own system. The result was a team anchored by legends such as Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden and Ron Darling – and a so-called “golden era” of Mets baseball in the second half of the ’80s.

When the success inevitably  faded, the Mets abandoned the rebuilding strategy and opted instead to sign batches of expensive star players. Needless to say, that tactic ultimately proved unsuccessful: Since their last World Series victory in 1986, the Mets have only made the playoffs four times. Mike Piazza, Robin Ventura and Al Leiter got the team to a World Series appearance in 2000, and Carlos Beltran, Pedro Martinez and Carlos Delgado helped power the team to the National League Championship Series in 2006. A World Series championship has proved as elusive as ever.

Van Riper argues convincingly that the Madoff crisis prompted the team’s management to rethink its strategy and start from the bottom up without big-name players, as it did in the early ’80s.

“The financial strait jacket placed on the club by the Madoff mess forced it do something it had resisted for years – conceding the short-term in exchange for building something with legs,” Van Riper writes. “That is, a team with a large window for championship contention that can win games, draw crowds and push ratings on SNY [the Mets TV channel that broadcasts games] for a number of years. Now, after several seasons of losing, that team is here.”

At least Madoff may have given New Yorkers one thing to cheer about.

The Mets-Dodgers series is so Jewish, congressmen are betting bagels on it


Baseball doesn’t get much more Jewish than this year’s MLB National League Division Series, which starts Friday between the New York Mets and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Both teams feature notable Jews: Joc Pederson in the outfield for the Dodgers and Joe Wilpon in the owner’s box for the Mets. Plus, you’ve got the famously Jewy fanbases of New York and L.A.

But what really makes this series Jewish is the bet on the outcome between two Jewish Democratic congressmen.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., is betting on the Dodgers, and Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y. is betting on the Mets. If the Mets win, Schiff pays up in popcorn from Pauline’s Premier Sweets in Burbank, California. If the Dodgers win, Israel is on the hook for bagels.

And not just any bagels: The word “fresh” appears twice in a press release about the bet:

“Schiff, who represents the areas surrounding Dodger Stadium, wagered gourmet popcorn from Pauline’s Premier Sweets in Burbank, befitting his Hollywood district. Israel, who is a Mets fan representing areas surrounding Citi Field, wagered New York bagels, flown in fresh.”

Then, quoting Schiff: “Please make sure the lox is fresh, Steve.”

That’s fresh. Not pulled out of the freezer. Not toasted. As these congressmen clearly understand, freshness is for bagels and lox what “no mayonnaise” is for a deli sandwich. Some traditions as simply unassimilable.

Let my people go (to Dodger Stadium’s new kosher hot dog stand)!


The Red Sox have done it. The Yankees have done it. Even the Kansas City Royals have gone kosher. 

Now — finally — Los Angeles baseball fans can enjoy a glatt kosher dog. 

Jeff’s Gourmet Sausage Factory began offering a decidedly Jewish twist to the Dodgers’ traditional ballpark menu July 28, when it set up shop and began selling specialty items like jalapeno dogs and sweet Italian sausage with grilled onions and peppers. It will continue for 14 more games this season, including tonight’s.

WATCH: Do people prefer Jeff's Gourmet Sausage over Dodger Dogs? Story continues after video.

A native Angeleno, sausage master Jeff Rohatiner said he is excited to now serve fellow Dodgers fans with some consistency, after only doing so on occasion in the past.

“I hope that the option of kosher food will allow more Jews to fully appreciate the American pastime without worrying about any extra preparations,” he said. 

The stand is located in the right field plaza next to Tommy Lasorda’s Italian Trattoria. If it proves to be a hit — or, Rohatiner hopes, a home run — the menu options could expand in the future. 

Rohatiner had seen the need all the way from his restaurant in Pico-Robertson.

“Dodger fans regularly stop in to Jeff’s before a game and bring our food to the stadium, even if they have to eat it cold,” Rohatiner said. “Now they can have the pleasure of a fresh-cooked kosher dog at their seats.” 

Hebrew National hot dogs are served at Dodger Stadium, but for more observant Jews, the dogs still don’t cut the mustard. With Jeff’s grand opening, the Jewish community no longer has to worry about mixed facilities and the possibility of non-kosher buns.  

This culinary development makes sense for a team that currently has a Jewish player in center field, Joc Pederson, and other members of the tribe in the front office — President and CEO Stan Kasten and president of baseball operations, Andrew Friedman. 

Fans have repeatedly lobbied for kosher food options at the stadium, but logistics have made it difficult. Michael Berenbaum, professor of Jewish studies and director of the Sigi Ziering Center for the Study of the Holocaust and Ethics at American Jewish University, has been a strong advocate for bringing kosher dogs to Chavez Ravine, and he visited the Jeff’s stand on its opening night.  

“It was inconceivable to me that the second largest Jewish community in America does not have a kosher dog stand,” Berenbaum said. “It felt absolutely terrific to have a hot dog with all the trimmings.” 

The Lou Barak Memorial Kosher Hot Dog Committee joined in the rejoicing. Named after group founder Paul Cunningham’s late father-in-law, the committee is made up of multiple professionals who have continuously fought for selling kosher hot dogs. 

“After wandering through the concession stands for years at Dodger Stadium, our people can finally eat,” Stuart Tochner, president-elect of the committee, wrote in an email to the Journal. “Given the Jewish fan base in L.A., we knew this day would eventually come. Let’s just say Sandy Koufax had an easier time pitching four no-hitters.”

Jewish and non-Jewish fans alike can enjoy these sausages at every home game except for those that fall on Shabbat and holidays. These dates include July 29; Aug. 2, 10, 11, 12, 13, 16, 30 and 31; and Sept. 1, 2, 20, 21 and 24.

Moving and shaking: Singing at Dodger Stadium, JNET, Amos Horev and more


Cantor Marcus Feldman of Sinai Temple sang the national anthem at Dodger Stadium on July 7 as the Los Angeles Dodgers took on the Philadelphia Phillies. Approximately 50 people from the Westwood-based Conservative congregation — including Rabbis David Wolpe and Jason Fruithandler — turned out to watch their cantor perform. 

Feldman, a Los Angeles native, told the Journal that it could not have gone any better, despite the Dodgers’ 7-2 loss.

“It was so much fun; it was thrilling. It was the largest audience I ever sang in front of,” he said in a phone interview. “You are oftentimes worried about forgetting the lyrics, [and] they have the lyrics up there, but I was focused on the flag.

“It’s one of those bucket-list things: You grow up going to Dodger games, and to be able to stand up on the field not just as an American but to be able to represent our people, especially in my profession, especially with all the anti-Israel stuff going on, it was a proud moment for me, my congregation and the Jewish community, too.”

Anyone who missed the game will have another chance to represent the Jewish people at Chavez Ravine on Aug. 30 for the Dodgers’ annual Jewish Community Day, when the team takes on the Chicago Cubs.


The Iranian-American Jewish organization 30 Years After has hired Shanel Melamed as its new executive director.

Shanel Melamed, new executive director of 30 Years After. Photo courtesy of Shanel Melamed

A graduate of USC, Melamed was born and raised in Los Angeles to “parents who fled the Islamic Republic of Iran shortly after the [Iranian] Revolution,” according to a press release. She previously worked at the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles, where she served as an adviser on issues of public diplomacy and public engagement.

Melamed succeeds Tabby Davoodi, who co-founded 30 Years After in 2007 and who concludes a three-year term as executive director, the release said. The search to replace Davoodi began in March. Melamed started July 15.

30 Years After President Sam Yebri was among those who expressed confidence that Melamed will successfully lead the organization into its next stage.

The organization, the release said, “strives in a nonpartisan manner to educate and engage Iranian-American Jews in American civil life.” 


Retired Israel Defense Forces Maj. Gen. Amos Horev — a former president of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and legendary war hero — shared his personal story before an intimate crowd during a July 10 luncheon with American Technion Society’s (ATS) young leaders.

Retired Israel Defense Forces Maj. Gen. Amos Horev, former president of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, and Diana Stein Judovits, director of the Western region of American Technion Society, nosh at Bedford and Burns restaurant in Beverly Hills. Photo courtesy of American Technion Society

“The participants were so touched to be with such a fascinating historical figure,” Diana Stein Judovits, director of the Western region of ATS said in an email. “Amos Horev’s story is the intersection of the history of Israel and the story of Technion’s role in transforming the state from a desert to an oasis and from an agricultural country to one of the most innovative nations in the world.”

ATS young leaders are members of the organization’s Ambassadors Leadership Development Program and are committed to the mission of helping ATS raise funds and awareness for the Israel Institute of Technology, according to a press release. Those present were: Paul Brandano, Gabriel Eshaghian, Tamar Geller, David Marcus, Lori Mars, Elan Mordoch, Michael Pycher, Joseph Shaposhnik, Michael Steuer and Sarah Weindling.

Additional attendees at the event, which took place at Bedford and Burns restaurant in Beverly Hills, included Rena Conner, president of the Southern California ATS chapter, and Journal President David Suissa.


The board of directors of the Jewish business networking organization JNET has elected Sandy Rosenholz of Senior Services Inc., as the new president of its Bel Air chapter. Rosenholz succeeds Alan Altschul of Open Mortgage, who has been the leader since 2013.   

Alongside his ownership of Senior Resources, Rosenholz has over 44 years of sales experience. 

JNET Tarzana AM chapter’s leadership team: Front row from left: Max Berger, Robin Kellogg and Ronit Krancberg. Back row from left:  Scott Margolin, Phil Blum, Victor Schwartz and Dean Piller. 

“We are thrilled that Sandy will be bringing his passion and exuberance to the Bel Air leadership team,” Jackie Mendelson, JNET board chair, said. “He is never short on ideas and will roll up his sleeves to make things happen. Sandy is a consummate networker with a lot to offer our membership.” 

JNET also has announced the opening of its 12th chapter, JNET Tarzana AM, the first chapter in the San Fernando Valley to offer morning meetings. The first meeting was held on July 7 at Temple Judea over bagels and coffee.  

The team is led by President Victor Schwartz of C-Suite Media Inc., and includes co-membership coordinators Dean Piller of Community Nationwide Mortgage and Scott Margolin of Eden Memorial Park; speaker coordinator Robin Kellogg of Robin Kellogg Associates; and public relations coordinator Philip Blum of Capstone Partners Financial & Insurance Services. 

JNET began in 2005 in the Conejo Valley, and chapters now exist throughout Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

— Ellie Frager, Contributing Writer

Moving and Shaking highlights events, honors and simchas. Got a tip? Email ryant@jewishjournal.com. 

Is Skinnygirl Bethenny Frankel dating Modern Family’s full-figured Eric Stonestreet?


Classic comic duo Laurel and Hardy managed to play off their opposite body types, so perhaps Skinnygirl (that’s her product line — Skinnygirl cocktail) Bethenny Frankel and Rubenesque Eric Stonestreet can pair up in harmony.

E! News reports the Real Housewives of New York star and Stonestreet, who plays a gay spouse and father in the Emmy award winning ABC series Modern Family, have become more than just friends. In addition to smiling for the camera together at the 2015 CAA Upfronts Celebration Party in May, and Stonestreet posting Bethenny’s photo on his social media updates, E! says an eyewitness claimed that Stonestreet took Frankel out to the ballgame on Monday when the Dodgers played the Phillies.

Frankel (44) whose Catholic Welsh mother Bernadette converted to Judaism before she married her father, interior designer Robert Frankel, denies the rumor that she and Stonestreet are an item, and ridicules the rumor they went to a ballgame together. She tweeted, “How did I manage to be at the Dodgers game and be at the Hamptons at the same time?”

Hey, when you’re skinny, nothing’s impossible.

Sightings of her with Stonestreet, in addition to hints of being happy amid the fallout of her devastating public divorce from Jason Hoppy, may have led the gossip columns to jump to a certain conclusion.

E! interprets her tweeting, “I’m very happy right now,” as one hint, in addition to, “I’ve really changed my mind on something. I think if you have great textual banter, compatibility is likely.”

Is “you have great banter” the same as “you have beautiful eyes”?

Bethenny Frankel, who has confessed to eating disorders and destructive weight obsession in the past, has denied that she is anorexic, despite having dropped a significant amount of  weight in a short span of time, weighing in at only 115 compared to her 5’6” height.

“I am thin. I have a brand called Skinnygirl,” she told the Dr. Oz show. She compared skinny shaming to fat shaming and stood up, asking the audience, “Do I look sick to you?”

Apparently no one answered her on the show, but there have been many comments on the internet concerning her stick-thinness, in addition to outrage last year when she bragged that she could fit into an article of her 8 year old daughter’s clothing.

As we’ve mentioned, Bethenny is going through a tough divorce, which has caused her considerable financial and emotional strain, and there may be a worry, that just as her mother turned to alcohol when her father left them, that Bethenny could be finding solace in compulsive thinning.

However, there may be hope that if if the dating rumors are true, the hefty, full-figured Roundstreet might smooth out her bony rough edges. Maybe he could hold her hand, take her to a fancy restaurant and actually manage to get some food into her, maybe a nice five course meal.

Los Angeles Summer Events: May 30 – August 30


SAT | MAY 30

DUDAMEL, DESSNER AND GLASS

In addition to two major premieres commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic from Bryce Dessner (half of indie rock favorite The National) and minimalist composer Philip Glass, there will be two string quartets and a performance of the piece responsible for making Caroline Shaw the youngest Pulitzer Prize winner for music. Both composers have worked with either Yiddish or biblical Hebrew in past pieces and have been recognized for their huge impact on the international music scene. 8 p.m. $65-$112. Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grande Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 850-2000.

SAT | JUNE 6

“I SEE YOU MADE AN EFFORT”

It’s the last Saturday night performance of the play adaptation of the hilarious book by Annabelle Gurwitch. Performed by Gurwitch herself and directed by Bart DeLorenzo, “I See You Made An Effort” asks: Is it possible to enjoy just one night off from the indignities put upon a woman of a certain age? Gurwitch’s work can also be found in the Los Angeles Times, Glamour, Los Angeles Magazine and more. Get your laugh going, or at least, make an effort. Ticket price includes a copy of the book! 6 p.m. $25. Through June 8. Skylight Theatre, 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles. (213) 761-7061. THUR | JUNE 11

“DOG DAYS”

Composed by David T. Little and featuring librettist Royce Vavrek, this new opera is based on the story by Judy Budnitz from her first collection of short stories, “Flying Leap.” After an unimaginable catastrophe, a family struggles to keep it together. The teenage daughter hangs on to hope, unwilling to accept her dire situation, until a stranger shows up. Tonight is opening night and the first opportunity the West Coast will have to experience this raw and powerful contemporary opera. Directed by Robert Woodruff. 8 p.m. $69. Through June 15. REDCAT, 631 W. Second St., Los Angeles. (213) 237-2800. SAT | JUNE 20

ELECTRIC DUSK DRIVE-IN SERIES

The second half of this super cool film venue’s summer schedule features some of our favorite movie visionaries. From “The Big Lebowski” (Coen brothers) to “E.T.” and “Indiana Jones” (Steven Spielberg) to “The Princess Bride” (Rob Reiner), there’s a classic for everyone. With the city sprawled out behind the screen, it’s a truly unique — and seasonal — way to watch the best of the best. It certainly beats sitting in traffic and staring at the car in front of you. 8:30 p.m. $9-$13. Through Aug. 15. Electric Dusk Drive-In, 1000 San Julian St., Los Angeles. (818) 653-8591. TUE | JUNE 23

JUDD APATOW

He’s dominated television with “Freaks and Geeks” and as an executive producer on “Girls,” as well as film with comedies including “Knocked Up” and “Superbad,” so it only makes sense that he’d also contribute a book. “Sick in the Head: Conversations about Life (and Comedy),” is a collection of intimate, hilarious conversations with the biggest names in comedy from the past 30 years — including Mel Brooks, Jerry Seinfeld, Jon Stewart, Roseanne Barr, Harold Ramis, Louis C.K., Chris Rock and Lena Dunham. If you’re a comedy nerd, this should be the next book on your shelf. 7 p.m. Free. Barnes and Noble at The Grove, 189 The Grove Drive, Los Angeles. (323) 525-0270. THUR | JULY 9

IPALPITI FESTIVAL 2015

Eighteen years and still going strong! An ensemble of a couple of dozen young musicians from around the world, iPalpiti & Soloists offers an expansive and international repertoire. Founded by Lord Yehudi Menuhin, the orchestra is often served by renowned conductor and honorary President Eduard Schmieder. With tons of concert opportunities in all kinds of cool locations, it will be difficult to miss out on this festival. There also will be a chance to meet the artists during the grand finale gala. Various times. Through July 26. Free-$120. Various venues. (310) 205-0511. THUR | JULY 16

“RENT”

Jonathan Larson’s “Rent” is a musical set in the East Village of New York City. It follows a group of young dreamers as they learn about falling in love, finding their voice and living for today. Confronting AIDS/HIV in a time when it was uncommon to do so, the musical also made political noise during the 1990s. Winner of the Tony Award for best musical and Pulitzer Prize for drama, the show has been enthusiastically received across the board. Whether you’re in it for the pop tunes or Puccini’s “La Boheme” influences, it will be a theater experience at its best. 8 p.m. Through July 26. $65-$149.50. Saban Theatre, 8440 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. (323) 655-0111. THUR | JULY 23

SUNSET CONCERTS

The Skirball Cultural Center kicks off its Sunset Concerts series, held each summer in the museum’s one-of-a-kind hillside setting. Devoted to inspiring the diverse populations of greater Los Angeles, the lineup will again showcase exceptional global talents, both legendary and emerging. Some headliners include the Yuval Ron Ensemble, Hurray for the Riff Raff and tonight’s Los Angeles debut of funky Afro-Colombian group La Chiva Gantiva. A full schedule is available on Skirball’s website. 8 p.m. Free. Through Aug. 27. Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500. TUE | AUG 18

LIVE PRESENTATION OF “2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY”

Conductor Brad Lubman leads the Los Angeles Philharmonic, with the help of Grant Gershon’s Los Angeles Master Chorale, in a live scoring of Stanley Kubrick’s science fiction masterpiece. See the film’s visual grandeur on the Hollywood Bowl’s big screen while the soundtrack is performed right in front of you. Music includes Strauss’ “Also sprach Zarathustra,” “The Blue Danube Waltz” and more. 8 p.m. $11-$45. The Hollywood Bowl, 2301 Highland Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 850-2000. FRI | AUG 21

MARC COHN

If you missed him last year at the Saban, here is another chance to catch the soulful songwriter. Hitting it big with his early ’90s hit “Walking in Memphis,” Cohn has spent years joining clever and sensitive lyrics with a musicality that’s simultaneously country, rock and pop. He won the 1991 Grammy for best new artist and has released seven studio albums. He toured with Bonnie Raitt in 2013, so maybe at this show you’ll here some super secret on-the-road stories. 8 p.m. $38-$68. Saban Theatre, 8440 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. (323) 655-0111. SUN | AUG 30

DODGERS JEWISH COMMUNITY DAY

Take you out to the crowd! Your Los Angeles Dodgers invite you to their 16th annual kosher baseball game. They’ll be playing the Chicago Cubs, so after waiting in line for a kosher hot dog or four, put on the special shirt that comes with your ticket package — a T-shirt that says “Dodgers” in Hebrew. The first 40,000 in attendance will get Dodger headphones! Sounds like a home run to us. 12:10 p.m. $30 and $38. Dodger Stadium, 1000 Elysian Park Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 224-2642.

Time for a kosher hot dog and a beer and Dodger baseball


Spring is upon us. The seders are over, the Iran problem endures. Romance is in the air and, with romance, some men’s and women’s hearts turn to baseball. 

I dutifully bought my season-ticket package of 40 games to Dodger Stadium — 40, not 81, because I don’t attend on Shabbat and Jewish holidays. Yet again I will feel ignored by the Dodgers, perhaps even scorned. 

It has been three years since the team changed management, and the McCourts are thankfully gone. We have a better team, more exciting players — even if you need a scorecard to know who they are — and given all that, one can hope that yet another world championship banner will soon fly over Dodger Stadium. 

But frankly, there is no excuse for why, after three years, Dodger management can’t accommodate the religious dietary needs of its Jewish and Muslim fans. 

If you think kosher hot dogs should be available at Dodger Stadium, click here.

Despite the tension in Jewish-Muslim relations internationally, Muslims will eat meat that has been slaughtered according to Jewish law, and through this, we both remember again what we are too often prone to forget — we are all children of Abraham. We can be united in rooting for the Dodgers, and are united in our deep disappointment that we are both taken for granted by the Dodgers, who have failed for so many years to offer kosher food at the stadium.

The New York Yankees offer kosher food. So too their cross-borough rivals, the New York Mets.

The Baltimore Orioles offer kosher food.

The Boston Red Sox offer kosher food in a ballpark that is now more than 100 years old.

The Chicago White Sox offer kosher food, and so too their crosstown rivals, the Chicago Cubs in vaunted Wrigley Field.

The Cleveland Indians offer kosher food.

The San Diego Padres offer kosher food. Los Angeles has six times as many Jews as that city to the south.

The Washington Nationals offer kosher food; our Jewish community is three times larger.

The Kansas City Royals offer kosher food; their Jewish community is less than one-tenth our size.

Even the hated San Francisco Giants offer kosher food at AT&T Park.

The Seattle Mariners offer kosher food; even the Milwaukee Brewers offer kosher food.

The Dodgers make Chinese food and Italian food and even “healthy food” available for sale, but only once a year, when a special appeal is made to the Jewish community, are kosher hot dogs available.

So, one has to wonder why the Los Angeles Dodgers — whose city’s Jewish community is the second largest in the United States, 600,000 strong, and whose Muslim community is also growing — can’t accommodate the religious needs of their fans.

I’ve heard the excuses:  Farmer John has an exclusive. Dodger Dogs are special, so I am told. There is a simple solution — let Farmer John develop a kosher line or license a kosher line to be carried in kosher and halal stores, or make a religious exception to their exclusive contract as they permit once a year.

There has to be a way — three years is a long time to wait. The O’Malleys should have done it. Fox should have done it. The McCourts should have done it. We’ve waited long enough. Solve the problem.


Michael Berenbaum is professor of Jewish studies and director of the Sigi Ziering Center for the Study of the Holocaust and Ethics at American Jewish University. Find his A Jew blog here.

Dodgers’ Jewish phenom Joc Pederson gets first Major League hit [VIDEO]


It wasn't pretty – but the beginning of the Joc Pederson era began with a flare last night. With two outs, nobody on and a 2-2 count the young center-fielder hit a blooper over Washington Nationals' second baseman Asdrúbal Cabrera for his first major league hit. Watch the video below:

Moving and shaking


Five years after merging with Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center (PJTC), former members of Congregation Shaarei Torah in Arcadia were among those who took part June 22 in a symbolic Torah scroll procession from their old building to their new home.

Since merging in 2009, PJTC has housed all of Shaarei Torah’s 11 scrolls. Still, the Torah walk (and drive) was attended by about 70 people and prompted by the fact that the former property, transferred to PJTC with the merger, was sold. 

“The new owner took possession of the property on July 1 and demolition may already be underway,” said Jeff Landau, PJTC executive vice president of programs.

Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater, spiritual leader of PJTC, said, “I hope it felt like some sense of closure — respect, kavod, for that space.”

On June 22, a final Sunday minyan took place at the Shaarei Torah building on Second Avenue in Arcadia. This was followed by the community Torah walk, during which people passed the holy scroll from one to another for a short distance. The majority of the 6 1/2 miles between the two sites was covered by car. 

Many of those who returned together to PJTC did so without dry eyes, according to Grater.

“We wanted to have this commemoration to honor the memory and allow folks to say goodbye to the space,” Grater told the Journal. “It was a very moving, emotional and touching morning.”


Los Angeles Dodgers’ baseball hats — emblazoned with the team’s name in Hebrew — dotted Dodgers Stadium stands on June 29 during the 15th annual Jewish Community Day.

On the scorching, summer afternoon, a group sales representative estimated Jewish community groups purchased 800 tickets. The day’s strong turnout was due, in part, to the tireless efforts of people like Jason Stern, brotherhood/men’s club president of Valley Beth Shalom in Encino. He sold 300 tickets and was one of several people honored on the field prior to the game.

From left: Hazzan Mimi Haselkorn of Temple Aliyah, Valley Beth Shalom’s men’s club president Jason Stern, and Shaarey Zedek congregant Michael Halpern and his children, Benjamin and Emma, participated in a pregame recognition ceremony at Dodgers Jewish Community Day on June 29. Photo by Ryan Torok

“I’m feeling just kind of excited about how successfully the community came together for this event,” Stern said walking down to the field for the ceremony. “Anytime you can get this much of the community together for anything it’s always a challenge — but to have people turn out in [these] kind of numbers and all be excited and having this much fun, you can’t ask for more than this.”

Hazzan Mimi Haselkorn of Temple Aliyah in Woodland Hills; Michael Halpern of Shaarey Zedek in Valley Village; Neil Wedge of Chabad of the Beach Cities and Beverly Hills Little League’s Eric Weissman were also honored during the pregame event, which recognized those who sold tickets in bulk.

The Dodgers beat the St. Louis Cardinals 6-0, but they weren’t the only winners. Jeff Rohatiner, owner of Jeff’s Gourmet Kosher Sausage Factory in Pico-Robertson, said he was thrilled to take part in the day’s event. Invited by the Dodgers, Rohatiner brought in a portable stand, complete with steam cookers capable of heating dozens of dogs simultaneously. A Kehilla Kosher rabbi supervised.

 “There’s nothing more American than baseball, apple pie and kosher hot dogs,” said Jay Falk of Shomrei Torah Synagogue in West Hills. 

Fans enjoyed a seventh-inning stretch that featured more than the customary rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Israeli singer Elliott Yamin sang “God Bless America.”


The seventh KindredSPIRITS benefit concert for Israeli humanitarian project Save a Child’s Heart (SACH) took place at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills on June 14.

KindredSPIRITS is a Jewish charity organization that produces an annual world-class concert that, according to its website, has raised nearly $1 million for six charities and drawn more than 5,000 people to its concerts. SACH is an international group that works to bring quality care to children suffering from heart disease in developing countries.

Performers at the concert included KindredSPIRITS founder Cantor Ilan Davidson of Temple Beth El in San Pedro; Cantor Ilysia Pierce of Temple of the Arts in Beverly Hills; and the L. A. Jewish Symphony, with founder and conductor Noreen Green. Singer-songwriter Bea Miller from the TV music competition “The X-Factor,” the Agape International Choir and singer Freda Payne were also part of the annual gala.

Performers included Cantor Ilan Davidson, the founder, president and artistic director of KindredSPIRITS, and “The X-Factor” singer Bea Miller. Photo courtesy of KindredSPIRITS

Michael Beckwith and his wife, Rickie Byars Beckwith, were honored with the KindredSPIRITS Humanitarian Award. Michael Beckwith is the founder and spiritual director of the Agape International Spiritual Center in Culver City, and Rickie Byars Beckwith is a recording artist of religious music.

Additional supporters of the June event included Congresswoman Janice Hahn; L.A. County Supervisor Don Knabe; L.A. City Councilman Joe Buscaino, and restaurateur and interior designer Barbara Lazaroff.


Misfits of Jewish Outreach (MOJO) held its first event in grand fashion — on a quadruple-decker yacht, “Noah’s Ark,” that left dock from Marina del Rey.

The June 15 evening masquerade party drew 250 Jewish young adults and featured everything from casino games to an exhibit with live animals. There were open bars, live music and a rooftop cabana, too.

MOJO’s mission is to create programs that “unravel the purpose and meaning of life” and highlight “the responsibility of the Jewish people” to the rest of the world to be a “light unto the nations,” explained Joubin Hanaie, one of the organization’s founder.

Guests at Misfits of Jewish Outreach’s “Noah’s Ark” event try their hand at blackjack. Photo by Jared Sichel

Hana titled the event after the biblical story of Noah because he wants his organization to help young Jews be leaders to their generation. The Biblical figure Noah, after the flood, was the leader of a new generation of humanity.

Friends and strangers dressed for a night on the town as they socialized and mingled, many with a drink in hand. Lauren Schwartz, 23, said one reason she came was to find a potential date.

One floor below, Rami Kayvar, Jonathan Jay and Aaron Kahen were enjoying their beverages and having a few laughs. Kayvar, who said he had not been to any Jewish events for a while, came in order to be “reintroduced into the Jewish scene.”

Hana added: “There are not many Jewish events that are unique, and I think this one really captured that.” 

— Jared Sichel, Staff Writer


Moving and Shaking highlights events, honors and simchas. Got a tip? Email ryant@jewishjournal.com.

Resurgent Dodgers aim to cap astonishing season


Twenty-five years after winning their most recent National League (NL) pennant, the resurgent Los Angeles Dodgers have their sights set on World Series glory to cap what has been an astonishing 2013 season.

Underpinned by brilliant pitching, reliable batting depth and important contributions from 'rank-and-file' players, the Dodgers became the first team to reach the playoffs and many believe they now have what it takes to go the distance.

Yet their loyal fans know full well that nothing can be taken for granted, still painfully aware that their beloved team had languished 9-1/2 games out of first place in the NL West on June 22 after starting their campaign amid high expectations.

Despite a $230 million player payroll, the Dodgers initially failed to click and faced further setbacks with injuries to several key players before they finally turned their season around in sensational fashion.

No wonder, then, that basketball great Magic Johnson, who is a member of the group of investors that purchased the club last year, exercised caution after the Dodgers had clinched their division title.

“We only accomplished Goal #1,” former Lakers point guard Johnson tweeted about the Dodgers, who have not won the NL pennant since 1988 when they went on to clinch the World Series for a sixth time.

“Today we have to set our sights on goal #2 defeating whoever our opponent is in the playoffs!”

The biggest trump card for the Dodgers will be their pitching and any opponent will have to overcome the potent one-two of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, whose earned run averages rank first and seventh in the majors, respectively.

“They're on a roll that baseball hasn't seen in many, many years,” Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of the Dodgers' mid-season turnaround. “Part of it is, obviously, the offense.

“But when you have Greinke, Kershaw going two out of five days, you're talking about two guys who can win Cy Youngs in any given year or throw a no-hitter on any given day.”

PRIME CONTENDER

Left-hander Kershaw leads the majors with his 1.83 earned run average and is a prime contender to win the NL's Cy Young Award for a second time. He previously won the accolade in 2011 as the NL's best pitcher.

These are certainly heady days for the Dodgers who fell into bankruptcy in 2011 as owner Frank McCourt and his wife battled in divorce court before a comeback was sparked when Guggenheim Baseball Management, a group of investors including Johnson, acquired the team in early May last year.

The new owners spent heavily to sign free agents like Greinke, trade for players such as Adrian Gonzales, Josh Beckett and former National League batting champion Hanley Ramirez and add emerging talent in the shape of South Korean star pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin.

Perhaps most significantly, the promotion to the majors of muscular Cuban refugee Yasiel Puig on June 3 gave the Dodgers an electrifying boost as the 22-year-old with the home run swing and rifle arm compiled 44 hits in his first month with the team.

However, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly is quick to bracket the influence of Puig with the June return of Ramirez from the disabled list.

“You can't say Puig without saying Hanley,” Mattingly said. “Puig got a lot of attention. Hanley was the force.”

The one thing which Mattingly cannot control during the postseason is player injury and he has some concerns over Andre Ethier (shin splints), Ramirez (back nerve) and Matt Kemp (already three times on the disabled list).

“It's tough to think you wouldn't play healthy,” said Mattingly. “You don't really want to play short. We're always making plans for different scenarios.”

Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Frank Pingue

Jackie and the Jews [Irish, Italians, Blacks, Poles]: Ethnicity in post-war America


Jackie was the first. Jackie could not just play the game for himself. He was playing the game for every one of his race who had been denied a chance, whose future was closed because of racism and segregation. Indeed, as I remember it, Jackie played the game for every minority kid whose opportunities were constrained because of discrimination.

I was but an toddler when Jackie broke in. My mother was often ill and my father, a decorated World War II veteran, was struggling to make up for lost time in the post-war years. He was 35 in 1945, the year the war ended, 35 and just beginning his career which was delayed by the depression and the Great War. In a frenzy to make something of his interrupted life, he worked all hours of the day and night. So we had an African-American cleaning lady, Minnie — an intelligent stately woman who in our era would have gone to school and become a professional, but in those days merely struggled to survive. Minnie loved me and she loved the Dodgers and the Dodger she most loved was Jackie. On his shoulders went the fate of all those denied an opportunity, and the destiny of all, those such as my father who were to struggle to make their way in the post World War II world. He loved Jackie as well and their love for Robinson was race blind — the great equalizer between men, women and children of diverse races and creeds.

Fire, passion, daring, Jackie was anything but a simple athlete. He fought every day and every moment of every day. He was the forerunner of the civil rights movement of the sixties, and the struggles for equality that were to follow. He would do anything to win. And when finally he was freed from his vow of silence, he played baseball with intensity unmatched in the history of the game. He could beat you with his bat, with his glove, with his base-running, and even with his mouth. Duke Snider recalled a game in which Robinson tormented the pitcher until he was hit by the pitch. He then took a huge lead off first base and challenged the pitcher to pick him off. The throw to first was wild and Robinson took two bases. He then threatened to steal home, until the unnerved hurler threw a wild pitch. Robinson lumbered home, staring at the pitcher.

Robinson was determined to overcome the weight of centuries. My father and Minnie understood his struggle. Orthodox Jew and underprivileged black, they both saw in his daily battle a mirror of their own life and the hope for future generations. If he made it, they could; if not them, then their children.

Pee Wee Reese was the Dodger Captain. Kentucky bred and almost a decade older than his teammates, he had broken into the game before World War II and was a star before his career was postponed by wartime duties. Reese was stable and able, dependable, savvy and smart. One could sense his roots in his demeanor, his pronunciation of his words, his courtliness, southern grace, and courtesy. So when Reese answered for Robinson, America took note. When he braved the taunts of fans and the displeasure of his southern friends by embracing Robinson as a teammate, as part of his double play combination, Reese came to exemplify every southerner who was willing to make segregation a thing of the past. There were a few such ball players in 1947, too few then, still too few. Several Dodgers protested Robinson's arrival. One year later Rickey traded them. He was determined to integrate Baseball and willing to pay the price.

Roy Campanella, certainly not the least of his mates, was all heart. In his every move one experienced the joy of the game, the love of baseball. Stocky and compact, Campy would be surprisingly swift on the base path and a stonewall protecting the plate. He was talkative. Campy would kibbutz with the batters and the umpires. He was as masterful at banter as at handling pitchers, speaking to them not just with his mouth, but by pounding his fists, gesturing in every direction.

The man loved what he did, and did it so well. Three times he was the National League's Most Valuable Player, the most valuable of a most impressive team, and when Campy played well, the Dodgers would win.

Campanella was formed by his experience in the Negro Leagues. Prior to being signed by the Dodgers, Campy played baseball year round. He reported to the Negro Leagues each spring and summer and went down to Venezuela to play ball in the winter. His alternatives were few. With a bat in his hand, he would club his way to a future. In the Negro Leagues, double headers were routine. Oftentimes teams played in two different cities during the same day. They brought their own lamps and polls to play nighttime baseball in then unlit stadiums. Travel was by bus where players often slept at night, denied entry into hotels in the segregated South and the inhospitable North. Motels were then unknown. Campy began his baseball career at 14, or so he said, for Negro League players often lied about their age in order to convince the white baseball barons to take a chance on their talents. By the time he began his 10 year major league career, Campanella had played professional baseball for twelve long years, summer and winter. Until Robinson was signed, Campanella could not dream of a big league career. He forever remained grateful that he was given his chance — just before it was too late.

Robinson and Campanella represented two faces of race and ethnicity in Brooklyn of the 1950s, then the most ethnically diverse and integrated city in America. For those of us Jewish boys — and I suspect the Irish and Italians as well — Jackie and Campy were familiar figures, they were not fond of each other and represented the polar opposites as to how to behave as a minority in the larger culture. Their struggles and the tensions between them were part of our family lore.

When our fathers told bold stories about standing up to antisemitism and demanding their rights, when their exploded in anger or triumphed by chutzpa, they became for us mini Jackie Robinsons — strong, and heroic. All over New York, Jews were breaking down barriers by being angry demanding and insistent — by playing the game more fiercely, with greater daring and conviction than the “white boys.”

When our fathers told us not to make waves, to be grateful for how far we had come, to remember with gratitude the opportunities we had been afforded, we thought of Roy Campanella. He knew what would have been his fate had he been given less talent, had opportunity not come his way just in time. Ever thankful, he could not be angry.

First generation Jews, Italians, and Irish and other ethnics understood Campy. The talented sons of pushcart peddlers and small merchants, of factory workers and machinists, were attending Harvard or Yale and even grateful to be at City College. And in those days Jews who went to the Ivy Leagues soon assimilated and if they did not, they were reluctant to go public with the identity they held sacred in private. In my New York Yeshiva, we were taught that a yarmulke was an indoor garment. Hats were to be worn in the street. In the fifties, Philip Roth was writing of Eli the Fanatic, the fearsome Jew who practiced his piety in public and embarrassed his assimilating neighbors.

So while my father and Minnie rooted for Jackie; more often than not, they played the racial and ethnic game like Campy. Jackie was respected, Campy was loved.

Calendar Picks and Clicks: July 14-19, 2012


SUN | JULY 15
DODGERS JEWISH COMMUNITY DAY
Matisyahu opens the 13th annual Jewish Community Day at Dodger Stadium with a pre-game concert on the field. After, enjoy a kosher nosh as you watch the boys in blue (and white) take on the San Diego Padres. Each ticket includes an exclusive Dodgers yarmulke. Sun. noon. $13-$30. Dodgers Stadium, 1000 Elysian Park Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 224-4287. dodgers.com/jewish.


MON | JULY 16

MATISYAHU
Matisyahu performs tracks from his new album, “Spark Seeker,” at Amoeba Music. Produced by Kool Kojak and recorded in Los Angeles, New York and Israel, the new songs focus on spirit and body, including “I Believe in Love,” which mixes ancient traditional sounds with futuristic beats, and the soulful lead single, “Sunshine.” A signing is limited to the first 300 purchasers of “Spark Seeker” (one album per person), which is being made available one day early for this in-store event. Mon. 6 p.m. Free. Amoeba Music, 6400 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood. (323) 245-6400. amoeba.com.

KLEZMER J.A.M.
Grab your clarinet, trombone, trumpet, guitar or accordion and channel the folk rhythms of Eastern Europe. Part of “J.A.M. (Jazz and Motivated) Sessions” at the Ford, today’s event features professional klezmer musicians teaching participants how to play klezmer songs on their own instruments. Afterward, everyone comes together to jam. Mon. 7 p.m. Free. Ford Theatres, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. E., Hollywood. (323) 461-3673. fordtheatres.org.

SUSANNA HOFFS
Hoffs, lead singer of the Bangles, discusses and signs her new solo album, “Someday,” a song cycle that doubles as a musical love letter to the 1960s. Hoffs discusses her career and new album with Grammy Museum Executive Director Bob Santelli and performs songs with “Someday” producer Mitchell Froom. Mon. 8 p.m. $20. Grammy Museum, Clive Davis Theater, 800 W. Olympic Blvd., downtown. (213) 765-6803. grammymuseum.org.


TUE | JULY 17

“THE GOLEM”
To protect his Jewish community from pogroms, a 16th century Prague rabbi uses Hebrew incantations to bring life to a monster made from clay in the kabbalistic 1920 silent horror classic, “The Golem: How He Came Into the World.” The film screens today at Cinefamily, and acclaimed guitarist Gary Lucas appears live to perform his original score. Tue. 7:30 p.m. $18. Silent Movie Theatre/Cinefamily, 611 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 655-2510. cinefamily.org.

MARC MARON
The stand-up comedian and podcaster (“WTF With Marc Maron”) brings his thought-provoking, honest and frequently laugh-out-loud act to Trepany House, a new multidisciplinary arts nonprofit at the Steve Allen Theater. Part of the summer series “Tuesdays With Maron,” the performance includes an hour of stand-up comedy. Tue. 8 p.m. $10. Trepany House, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 666-4268. trepanyhouse.org.


WED | JULY 18

“CUBAN AND JEWISH: TWICE SURVIVORS”
Before Fidel Castro came to power in 1959, there were 15,000 Jews and five synagogues in Havana alone. Today, only about 1,500 Jews live in Cuba. Highlighting the connection between Jews and Cuba, the Skirball hosts a discussion with Havana historian Maritza Corrales Capestany, the foremost authority on the Jewish community of Cuba. On Thursday, the Skirball hosts a screening of “The Chosen Island,” a documentary scripted by Capestany and directed by Yassel Iglesias, which follows the rediscovery and revival of Jewish life in Cuba and explores questions about faith, resilience, strength and survival. A Q-and-A with the director follows. Lecture: Wed. 8 p.m. $6 (general), $5 (Skirball members, students). Film screening: Thu. 8 p.m. $6 (general), $5 (Skirball members, students). Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500. skirball.org.


THU | JULY 19

“DON’T TELL MY MOTHER!”
This witty “big gay show” features comics, actors and screenwriters sharing stories they’d never want their moms to know. Performers include David Dean Bottrell (“Boston Legal”), Gary and Larry Lane (“Hollywood to Dollywood”), Jen Kober (“American Reunion,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm”), Jimmy Ray Bennett (“Sleeping Beauty”) and Nikki Levy, a Fox film executive and creator of the show. Reflecting Levy’s queer, anything-goes sensibility, the stories examine sex, family dysfunction, therapy and more. Thu. 8 p.m. $15. Bang Comedy Theatre, 457 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles. donttellmymother.com.

Letters to the Editor: Dennis Prager, kosher hot dogs, chewable Xanax


Left, Right and the Definition of Evil

Mr. Prager has stated he has had an obsession with fighting evil (“A Man and a Book,” April 20). He falsely accuses the left from its inception as combating something other than evil, and that is material inequality. Where, Mr. Prager, on your idea of the political continuum, does the right end and the left begin? Was the New Deal of FDR not fighting evil when he set up agencies to help desperately poor people during the Great Depression? Was FDR not fighting evil when he led our nation against Hitler? Was LBJ not fighting evil when he got Congress to pass to the Civil Rights Acts, making Jim Crow illegal? Was Obama not fighting evil when he got regulations back to stop the excesses of Wall Street and the banks that brought on the terrible Bush recession? Mr. Prager, in practically every one of your columns, you rail against the left. This, sir, is your obsession, and as a self-proclaimed fighter of good against evil, your obsession with the left is not good.

Leon M. Salter
Los Angeles

Dennis Prager responds:

When FDR fought the terrible effects of the Depression, he was fighting tragedy, not evil. There is a robust debate among today economists whether FDR’s massive government spending helped or hindered recovery from the Depression. His own treasury secretary said in 1939 that it didn’t help. Yes, of course, fighting Hitler was fighting evil, and after Pearl Harbor, Republicans and Democrats alike fought Hitler. But the preoccupation of the left (not liberals, as I repeatedly note) has been economic inequality, not evil. That is why the left celebrated the Soviets until Stalin made a pact with Hitler in 1939. That is why the left mocked Ronald Reagan when he called the Soviet Union an evil empire. That is why the left mocked George W. Bush when he labeled North Korea a country-prison camp, and the Holocaust-denying Iranian regime, with its promise to wipe Israel off the map, an “axis of evil.” That is why the left opposed anti-communists far more than they opposed Mao (murderer of 75 million), Ho Chi Minh, Castro and other murderous communist tyrants. As for racism in America, more Republicans than Democrats voted for civil rights legislation, and it was Republican President Dwight Eisenhower who sent troops to integrate Little Rock High School in 1957. It was racists in the Democratic Party, not conservatives or Republicans, who blocked civil rights for blacks. American history’s most conservative candidate for president, Barry Goldwater, was a founder of the Arizona NAACP. And the roots of the current recession lie in policies put into place long before George W. Bush. It was largely brought on by Presidents Carter and Clinton, whose legislation and financial industry regulation coerced banks into giving home loans to minorities and other people with low incomes thought to be “underrepresented” as homeowners. Finally, Mr. Salter, outside of the Muslim world, virtually all the attempts to delegitimize Israel come from the left. Is that worth being “obsessed” about?


Something’s Not Kosher in Dodger-land

I was stunned to read in Michael Berenbaum’s opinion piece (“Time for a (Kosher) Hot Dog, a Beer and Dodgers Baseball,” April 20) that Dodger Stadium, of all places, does not sell kosher hot dogs, although it is located in such a large Jewish market. It’s also sad that a petition may be necessary to change that reality.

As a New Yorker and lifelong Yankees fan, I believe that there are two ballparks whose beauty elevates the already spiritual nature of the game of baseball – Yankee Stadium and Dodger Stadium. Yankee Stadium has glatt kosher food stands where hot dogs and other goodies are available. What are the Dodgers waiting for?

Even as the new ownership of the Dodgers spends millions on the team and keeping the stadium looking like new at the age of 50, it should use the vast resources of the Los Angeles Orthodox community to bring a shomer Shabbos glatt kosher food emporium to “The House That O’Malley Built.”

Stephen Steiner
Director of Public Relations
Orthodox Union


Take a Chill Pill, Mom

Teresa Strasser’s son does not need chewable Xanax (“Chewable Xanax and the Shoe Debacle,” April 20). He needs his mother at home and no daycare. My heart goes out to this little boy. My advice to Ms. Strasser: You should take the chewable Xanax! 

Barbara Joan Grubman
Woodland Hills


CORRECTION

The article “$20 Million Gift to L.A. Federation Is Its Largest Ever” (April 20) neglected to state that in addition to funding Brawerman Elementary School West at Wilshire Boulevard Temple in 1998, Geri and Richard Brawerman provided the naming gift for the school’s east campus, which opened in fall 2011 at the temple’s historic building on Wilshire Boulevard.

‘Baseball Fantography’ hits It out of the park


The snapshot of famed circus clown Emmett Kelly offers a window into the Dodgers’ more colorful past.

The picture of the former Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey icon was taken at Ebbets Field during his brief, and largely forgotten, stint as the team’s mascot in Brooklyn. Kelly — clad in a tattered suit, wearing a hat that had seen better days and holding a head of lettuce that would serve as lunch — looks longingly into a camera near the third-base dugout. In the background are the mostly filled, first-base seats stacked above each other in a decrepit but beloved ballpark that would be torn down just a few years later.

To Lew Lipset, who lived and died with the Dodgers while a kid growing up in Flatbush, the photo is a reminder of his childhood.

“I was born in Brooklyn,” the 70-year-old recalled. “My father took me to my first Dodger game in 1951 at Ebbets Field. “After a while, I started bringing a camera with me. Before you know it, I was taking pictures of anything I could.”

Several of those pictures were among the more than 7,500 that baseball fans from around the country submitted to Andy Strasberg, a Jewish kid from New York who grew up to become an executive with the San Diego Padres and whose new book, “Baseball Fantography” (Harry N. Abrams: $19.95), includes 300 of the images taken with everything from Kodak Instamatics to Canon Power Shots.

“There are a lot of fans who are passionate about the game who decided to take a camera to the ballpark and record their experience,” said Strasberg, whose idol as a kid was Roger Maris and who now runs his own marketing firm. “The fascinating thing to find is what was important to them. The results are amazing.”

Said Lipset, who now lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., and who gave up on the Dodgers when they let Steve Garvey head to San Diego as a free agent:

“It’s a wonderful idea. There are so many people who go to the ballpark with cameras. Why not capture their memories?”

So why did Strasberg include the picture of Kelly in his book?

“The Brooklyn bum is iconic in baseball lore, and I don’t think many people know that for a couple of years Kelly was hired to be the real-life bum for the Dodgers,” Strasberg said.

The Dodgers and Angels are well represented in the collection of fan photographs.

Among the pictures is a shot of Sandy Koufax posing in a Brooklyn Dodgers uniform during batting practice at Ebbets Field, and an image of a nearly empty Dodger Stadium when the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim were hosting the Detroit Tigers on July 19, 1962.

Not all the photos were taken at a ballpark. Jack and Susie Nopal submitted one that captures a view of Duke Snider’s old bowling alley in the northern San Diego County town of Fallbrook; Debbie Chou provided an image of a Babe Ruth float at the 1949 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena; and Hans Osterhoudt of Cooperstown, N.Y., took a picture of Major League Baseball’s greatest Jewish slugger, Hank Greenberg, as he strolled — in a well-tailored suit — toward the opening of baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1939.

What was important to Peter Wagner of Pittsburgh was getting a picture of right fielder Roberto Clemente glancing up at the camera while signing autographs at Forbes Field in 1957. For Strasberg, it’s one of him posing at the edge of the right-field seats at Yankee Stadium in 1966, the arm of a “gangly teen in thick-rimmed glasses” around the shoulder of the former American League MVP, home plate some 370 feet behind them.

For Jan Brooks of San Diego, it was Roseanne Barr “singing” the national anthem.

Her picture is one of the more interesting ones in the book.

The Budweiser and Toyota advertisements splashed across the centerfield scoreboard dominate the image. But a closer look at the photograph reveals Barr on the video screen singing — some would say butchering – “The Star-Spangled Banner” on July 25, 1990, at what was then called San Diego Stadium.

It was an infamous performance, a performance vilified across the country, a performance then-President George H.W. Bush called “disgraceful.”

“She started off pretty decent, but somewhere along the way, she kind of lost it,” Brooks said. “I thought it would be a good idea to take a picture of her. That was the best picture I could get.”

Brooks said she was in a club box with some co-workers from Naval Ocean Systems Center. “I thought it was pretty funny,” she said. “The other fellows in the box were not too happy.”

Strasberg said he established but two rules while collecting the pictures: No photos of players in action, and no shots from professional photographers.

The biggest challenge in putting the book together, Strasberg said, was organizing the pictures. Stumped on how to arrange the shots, Strasberg turned to a friend.

“He said, ‘Step back, look at all the photographs, and the themes will become apparent.’ ”

The result? Chapters on everything from mascots (such as the San Diego Chicken) to moonlighting (including players working at other occupations in the off season).

Some of the more memorable snapshots focus on children. In one especially poignant picture, a young Andy Weiner is holding Mickey Mantle’s jersey in the Yankees’ locker room at the House That Ruth Built. “It was an incredible Yankees moment that I’ll never forget,” he wrote in the book.

Fans’ incredible moments are what the book is all about.

Howard Frank of San Diego submitted a picture taken of him when he was a kid shaking hands with his boyhood idol, Ernie (Let’s Play Two!) Banks, at a 1957 B’nai B’rith event in Chicago.

“That was my hero, and that was the first picture I was able to take with not only a major leaguer, but someone I idolized. It showed him to be a person, not someone who acted like he was on a pedestal.”

Strasberg’s book, Frank said, “illustrates the beauty of baseball and how it has a special meaning to everyone, I think more so than any other sport.”

Kerry Tucker submitted a picture of his then 5-year-old daughter, Blake, at a Padres spring training camp in 1985. The girl with blond braids is clutching a pen in her right hand, a Padres program in her left. She’s looking up pleadingly at San Diego relief ace Rich “Goose” Gossage, but all that can be seen of the future Hall of Fame pitcher in this picture are the pinstripes on his pants.

The caption? “Goose legs.”

“It’s just an awesome picture,” said Tucker, who has the same shot from that 1985 spring training moment hanging from his office wall at Nuffer, Smith, Tucker Public Relations in San Diego. “Just look at her looking at that player. She probably doesn’t even know who he is, but she’s in awe.”

Added his daughter, now 31: “That photo embodies my childhood. Going to spring training was something we did every year. I might be one of the few people around who would say that [former Padres spring training headquarters] Yuma is probably one of my favorite places on Earth.”


David Ogul, a lifelong Dodgers fan, is a freelance writer based in San Diego.

Opinion: Save the Academic Decathlon


In a city where some of the very rich are willing to pay $1 billion-plus for the bankrupt Dodgers baseball team, why can’t anyone spare $500,000 to support an Academic Decathlon program that brings luster to the often criticized Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD)?

Unbelievably, funding for the annual Academic Decathlon, which pits high school students against their peers in a test of wits and knowledge, would be eliminated in the cuts proposed in the worst-case budget approved by the LAUSD board. 

These cuts are planned unless teachers agree to four-day unpaid furloughs or voters support a parcel tax, an additional tax on property. Among the other cuts contemplated are the closing of all adult schools and abandonment of afterschool programs and English-as-a-second-language classes. Thousands of teachers would be dismissed.

News of the contemplated death of the Academic Decathlon program came out just as the Granada Hills Charter High School team won the 2012 California Academic Decathlon on March 19, its second consecutive win, completing a grueling period of preparation — with some sessions lasting eight hours a day — studying history, music, physics and math, learning to answer questions orally as well as on paper. LAUSD schools have won the state title 18 times since 1987, and 12 national titles.

I find it a bit suspicious that Superintendent John Deasy and the Board of Education would pick on the Academic Decathlon program in the midst of the budget crisis. Its cost is a relative pittance; its pluses are huge. Threatening to eliminate something so valuable sounds like a familiar LAUSD budget scare tactic.

“Every year, they go to the same filing cabinet and bring out the same old cuts,” said former school board member and teacher David Tokofsky. He’s the father of L.A.’s Academic Decathlon competition, starting the string of national and state victories with his Marshall High School team in 1987.

But let’s assume Deasy and the school board are not bluffing, that they’d really be willing to sacrifice this adornment to the school district to save a few dollars. Is there an alternative?

I talked to Tokofsky about raising money from private sources. He agreed with me about the availability of rich potential donors. He noted that some of them, and their foundations, are already putting money into the district to promote their own ideas of school reform, including paying salaries of some administrators they like.

There are others he figures would be willing to help. “There are really famous rock stars from Garfield and Banning and other schools,” he said. “There are athletes. We are so busy beating up the system that we don’t celebrate the people who could help us. We should hunt down the alumni who have the most romantic views of their schools. They’re out there, yet nobody is harvesting them.”

Tokofsky gave me a rundown on the approximately half a million dollars a year needed to finance the competition. The money goes for coaches, supplies, travel and food for the competitors, and salary for the official who administers it, Cliff Ker. Coaches, who are teachers, saw their extra pay cut this year from $5,000 a year to $2,800. Coaches work with the teams two or so hours daily at first, then five, six and even eight hours a day as competition nears.

“It’s very hard to find coaches,” Ker said. “It’s a lot of work, there is a lot of turnover — we have between 20 and 25 coaches leave each year, about a third. They are dealing with very bright kids, some more motivated than others, requiring many hours of study with very few tangible results until it is over. It has to be a very special individual who is dedicated, can put in the time, [is] disciplined, kind of a whole bunch of John Wooden clones,” said Bruins fan Ker, invoking the name of the famed late UCLA basketball coach.

“Part of my job is to get donations,” Ker said. “David [Tokofsky] has helped me. But the most we have raised in a year is $100,000. Recently, we have raised [only] $50,000 a year. I have gotten leads, but I don’t know whether it is my [lack of] fundraising skills, or I’m not connected, but I have only been able to raise that $50,000.”

The district could help more. The Academic Decathlon makes headlines during competition time, but Deasy and his media staff could turn themselves into John Wooden clones and do much more.

The high school students and their coaches bring something positive to a district flooded with gloomy news about test scores, labor management disputes and investigations into a few perverted teachers. And now, with the stroke of a pen in their bureaucratic hands, Deasy and the school board are threatening to kill something so good.

Los Angeles can’t leave it up to them. We’re loaded with rich people — film executives and stars, athletes, Midas-touch financiers, developers, etc. They give to museums, universities, charities, foundations and political campaigns. Synagogues, churches and many other causes. A small portion of this wealth should go for LAUSD’s amazingly successful Academic Decathlon teams.


Bill Boyarsky is a columnist for The Jewish Journal, Truthdig and L.A. Observed, and the author of “Inventing L.A.: The Chandlers and Their Times” (Angel City Press).

Dodgers continue support for Maccabiah games


The Los Angeles Dodgers will again underwrite the baseball tournament at the Maccabiah games in Israel, according to an announcement from the Maccabiah Organizing Committee.

Frank McCourt, though occupied with ownership of the team and a contentious divorce, said, “Our sponsorship hugely enhanced the baseball experience at the 18th Maccabiah Games in 2009, and the Dodgers are proud to continue our close association with the Jewish Olympics.

“We are delighted to participate in spreading the baseball message internationally and eagerly look forward with all Jewish and Israeli fans to seeing great ball at the 2013 Maccabiah.”

On the Israeli side, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also put aside a few other concerns and pledged that his government will provide substantial support for the next Maccabiah, scheduled for July 16-30, 2013.

On the local end, a committee of 36 well-heeled Angelenos is again swinging into action, after raising $1.8 million for the 2009 Maccabiah. The money went mainly to subsidize the participation of athletes from smaller Jewish communities around the world.

Steve Soboroff, who organized the Los Angeles efforts, said that, as previously, local supporters have pledged $50,000 each to serve as “consultants” for the 2013 event.

In addition, former Mayor Richard Riordan will again sponsor the Maccabiah chess competition and the Jewish Life Television network will broadcast highlights of the games.

In a related development, the main venue for the next Maccabiah may be Jerusalem’s expanded Teddy Kollek stadium, rather than the traditional Ramat Gan facility near Tel Aviv.

Some 8,000 athletes, among them junior and senior competitors, participated in the 2009 Maccabiah, setting a new attendance record, Maccabiah executive director Eyal Tiberger said during a recent visit to Los Angeles.

They came from 52 countries, and organizers hope to add Cuba, Morocco, Burma and Singapore to the 2013 list.

Artifact-rich Sports Museum opens downtown


A T206 Honus Wagner baseball card, one of the rarest in the world. Barry Bonds’ 755th home run ball. A handful of infield dirt, the broken champagne bottle used to christen the stadium and the first ball thrown out at Ebbets Field, home of the Brooklyn Dodgers, in 1913.

These are some of the gems at the Sports Museum of Los Angeles, which opened on Nov. 28. Not surprisingly, the collection, owned by Gary Cypres and housed downtown in a 32,000-square-foot warehouse, has already generated the kind of breathless blurbs usually uttered by radio personalities for movie openings.

“Awesome! Fantastic! Unbelievable! That one person could collect all this memorabilia is incomprehensible,” Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said of the museum, located a few blocks south of Staples Center.

“The best sports museum in the world!” former Dodger owner Peter O’Malley added.

This is one case where everything that has been said is true. Cypres’ vast sports collection, which fills 30 well-lighted galleries, is extraordinary and reflects its owner’s deep love of sports history.

It is not simply that he knows Yale, not USC, was the school that pioneered football; Cypres also owns a rare Edison film of the 1903 Yale vs. Princeton football game, which runs on a small screen above an exhibit on college football.

And it’s not simply that he knows that the L.A. Times got it wrong when it reported that, after Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak ended, he hit in another 12 games (Joltin’ Joe actually hit in another 16 consecutive games); Cypres also owns the ball that was speared by Cleveland’s Ken Keltner to end DiMaggio’s 56-game skein.

Still, one has to ask, where are the Jewish sports artifacts?

Mark Spitz’ gold medals? Barney Ross’ lightweight, junior welterweight and welterweight belts? Hank Greenberg’s 58th home run ball from 1938?

None of these are to be found at the museum, but there is a jersey worn in 1957 by Dodger Sandy Koufax, one of the greatest Jewish athletes of the past century and arguably the greatest left-handed pitcher in the history of Major League Baseball.

Cypres, who slumps over but who once stood about 6-foot-3 1/2-inches when he played forward at Hofstra, says, “You want Jewish?”

He points out a photograph of the Cleveland Rosenblums, a championship basketball squad from the late 1920s and early 1930s. What is striking is how much shorter the players were then. The tallest player, Joe Lapchick, was 6-foot-5, tiny by today’s standards. Dressed in knee pads and tank-tops, sticking out their chests, with their bodies turned to the side, not straight-on, the Rosenblums look more like a college wrestling team than a pro basketball squad.

In one of the basketball rooms, there are also jackets worn by members of the House of David, a barnstorming outfit that played basketball and baseball, and the Philadelphia Sphas, a legendary Jewish hoops team during the early days of basketball. There are also photos and a plaque of Abe Saperstein, founder of the Harlem Globetrotters.

A modest, unassuming man who has made his money in investment banking and the travel business, Cypres, 65, grew up in the Bronx at a time when Jews were still dominant in basketball, when CCNY, a team coached by Nat Holman and comprised of many Jews, became the only school to win the NIT and NCAA titles in the same year. Cypres played ball on the playgrounds and at summer camp with Larry Brown, the current Charlotte Bobcats coach, who was himself a great player in the ABA.

Yet when asked what it meant to be a Jewish kid back then, when there were many star Jewish athletes, Cypres says that didn’t influence him to play basketball.

His favorite athlete was Mickey Mantle.

Although he roots for the Dodgers now, Cypres still has a love for his boyhood Yankees and has a whole room devoted to Mantle as well as rooms filled with DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth memorabilia.

Unfortunately, despite the wealth and beauty of the resources in this museum, it has attracted few visitors so far. Part of that is due to the economy, which is harming attendance at many museums such as MOCA, on whose board Cypres’ wife, Kathi, sits. Part of it is due to its location, downtown, as opposed to the Westside. And part of it is due to the time of year. Cypres expects greater turnout in the summer when kids are out of school.

But Cypres has gotten many calls from corporations, asking to hold events in his museum. He sees it as a perfect spot to host dinners, seminars and parties.

Meanwhile, his sports memorabilia collection, which he values at roughly $30 million, keeps gaining in value. As he says, “better than the stock market, Imight add.”

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Top: Uniform jerseys that are part of the Los Angeles Dodgers gallery. Bottom: Evolution of the football uniform in one of the football galleries at the Sports Museum of Los Angeles. Photos courtesy of the Sports Museum of Los Angeles

Dodgers hit grand slam in history of Jewish players


When the Dodgers celebrated their 50th anniversary in Los Angeles on March 29 with an exhibition game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, it seemed almost fitting that a Jewish ballplayer, Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis, would hit a pivotal home run that helped Boston win the game. During the Dodgers’ final home game against the Chicago Cubs at the Coliseum in 1961, a young left-handed pitcher named Sandy Koufax won the ballgame for Los Angeles.

The club had signed Koufax to a “bonus baby” contract in 1955 while in Brooklyn. A few years later, after legendary owner Walter O’Malley moved the Dodgers to Los Angeles, the team that broke the so-called color barrier when it signed Jackie Robinson in 1947 became a nexus of Jewish talent with

Canter’s Deli Joins Ballpark Lineup

By Brad A. Greenberg, Senior Writer

Canter’s Deli and Sandy Koufax — two names that evoke the words ‘Jewish Los Angeles’ unlike any other. With the Tribe’s contributions to Los Angeles’ eateries and baseball team, it’s fitting that the Dodgers would offer the delicacies that seem as much a part of Judaism as the Passover story: salt-cured beef and matzah ball soup. It only took 50 years for that to happen.

Part of a multimillion-dollar field-level expansion project at Dodger Stadium, Canter’s Deli — an anchor of the Fairfax district since 1948, but with an L.A. history that dates back to 1931 in Boyle Heights — joined Gordon Biersch, Panda Express and all those Dodger Dog windows. Its menu is truncated but carries the essentials: matzah ball soup, corned beef and pastrami sandwiches and that marriage of the two meats, the Canter’s Fairfax.

An avid Dodger fan — the kind who takes his wife to games on their anniversary — I was eager to sample the new fare. The line was short and my Canter’s Fairfax was served up suspiciously quickly. Indeed, something terrible happens to thinly sliced, heavily salted meat when placed under a heat lamp. It doesn’t melt in your mouth — it flakes.

What I couldn’t find at Canter’s or any other concession stand was a kosher hot dog. Providing a kosher nosh would require renovating the kitchens at Dodger Stadium and peeling Farmer John’s grip from its hot dog monopoly. A Dodger spokeswoman said the club has “no immediate plans” for this.

Fortunately, I don’t keep kosher. But plenty of Angelenos do, and for years they’ve felt like they’re missing out of one of the most enjoyable elements of rooting for the Dodgers: Eating a lukewarm hot dog that is never as tasty as you remember.

“There is a sizable Jewish population in the city, a very active group of people who support and love the Dodgers,” said Steve Getzug, a founding member of the Lou Barak Memorial Hot Dog Committee and public affairs executive. “It just would seem reasonable to assume the Dodgers would cater to aspects of their culinary interest. We understand that there are barriers, clearly, but others have made it work.”

Although many other ballpark menus have kosher components — the Boston Red Sox announced two weeks ago that the Fenway Frank would be joined by Hot Nosh glatt kosher dogs — observant Dodger fans have had to stick to garlic fries, cheese pizza and peanuts except for a few times a year. Even that has been limited since Rabbi Aaron Parry, who had been permitted to operate a kosher cart on Jewish Community Day, opted out last year when negotiations fell through.

“They have spent a lot of money to improve concessions at Dodger Stadium, which is appealing, and fans will embrace it. But for those of us who are part of the Lou Barak Memorial Hot Dog Committee, the bottom line is this,” Getzug said. “Our field of dreams includes kosher hot dogs.”

Koufax and Fairfax High School batterymates Larry Sherry and Norm Sherry in the late 1950s and early ’60s.

They were known by the nicknames of “Super Jew” (Koufax), “Rude Jew” (Larry Sherry, who sometimes threw at batters) and “Jolly Jew” (Norm Sherry).

From his home in San Diego, Norm Sherry, 76, said that when he was growing up in Los Angeles in the early to mid-1950s, he “knew nothing about major league players,” not even Koufax, mostly because Los Angeles didn’t have a major league team in those days. Instead, he rooted for the Pacific Coast League’s Hollywood Stars, a minor league team that played at Gilmore Field, located by the present-day CBS Television City.

After a tryout at Gilmore, which was only blocks from Sherry’s house, he signed a contract with Brooklyn, having no idea that within a few years the Dodgers would move to the Southland and that he and his brother, a relief pitcher, would be playing for their hometown team.

Unlike the Brooklyn club, the beloved Bums, who struggled for decades before finally winning a championship in 1955, the L.A. incarnation of the Dodgers won the World Series in 1959, only its second year in Southern California. Larry Sherry, who passed away in December 2006, was the most valuable player of that championship, the first pitcher to win or save every game of a World Series.

As they do now at Dodger Stadium, the team drew record attendance figures at the Coliseum, which served as home for the club for four years while Chavez Ravine was being reconfigured for the team’s new location. In Brooklyn, the fans “lived and died with” the Dodgers, but the Los Angeles fans needed some persuading, said Norm Sherry, who praised Vin Scully, the famed broadcaster, for “selling the ballclub. The transistor radio came in in those days, and everybody was listening to him.”

Norm Sherry would go on to manage future Dodger ace Don Sutton in the minors and to groom Gary Carter into a Hall of Fame catcher for the Montreal Expos, but he may be best remembered as the one who supposedly taught Koufax how to control his pitches.

Sherry refused to take such credit, but he did confirm an often-told story about a split-squad game during spring training in 1961.

Early in that game, Koufax walked the bases loaded and kept throwing the ball further and further out of the strike zone. Sherry approached him off the mound and pointed out that with “only about nine guys out here,” they couldn’t afford to go to the bullpen for a reserve. “‘Why don’t you take something off the ball and let him hit it,'” Sherry asked Koufax. “I think he struck out the next three guys. That was the beginning for him to realize that it’s not about raring back.”

Sherry compared it to “guys that hit a golf ball far, and they’re not even swinging that hard. It’s about a rhythm you can get, good timing and body strength.”

Sherry roomed with Koufax in 1962 and remembered him not only as a tinkerer who’d “bring a little tool kit and fix the TV if it wasn’t working,” but also as “a real nice person who never put himself above anybody and who always looked out for the little guys on the team,” the rookies and others who didn’t play very often.

The Los Angeles community embraced the Jewish trio. After one baseball season, Sherry got a job selling advertising, not unlike many ballplayers who took winter jobs in the pre-free agency era, when baseball salaries were modest. “I was no salesman,” he said, but when he told prospective customers that he was Norm Sherry, “they’d buy stuff from me.”

To this day, a mural in the parking lot at Canter’s deli displays a prominent sketch of Koufax, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art has exhibited R.B. Kitaj’s portrait of the pitching icon that shows his winning form and intense concentration as he hurls a baseball.

However, when Koufax first came up to the Dodgers, he struggled.

Despite the long-held myth that Koufax was a wild pitcher in his early years in the big leagues, author Jane Leavy in her book, “Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy,” broached the notion that manager Walter Alston misused the future Hall of Famer by not pitching him regularly, a charge uttered by, among

Player Toiling in Minors in Bid to Return to The Show

By Robert David Jaffee, Contributing Writer


In “Bull Durham,” Kevin Costner’s Crash Davis regales his minor league teammates with stories of his time in The Show, the big leagues.

Far from the thrill described in the film, Adam Greenberg’s cup of coffee in the majors with the Chicago Cubs in 2005 almost turned tragic. The first pitch the left-handed hitter faced, a 92-mph fastball from Florida Marlin southpaw Valerio de los Santos, hit him in the back of the head and nearly ended his career.

Paul Lo Duca, the former Dodger catcher, told Greenberg to stay on the ground, and the rookie obliged, all the while feeling as if his head were going to explode. The young centerfielder endured severe headaches for months that were so bad that he had to sleep upright in bed, according to ESPN.com.

Diagnosed with positional vertigo, Greenberg sat out the rest of the 2005 season and was released by the Cubs the next year, but he refused to give up on a baseball career. In 2006, he joined the Dodgers’ double-A affiliate, the Jacksonville Suns, where, recuperating from his head trauma, he had a low batting average but a high on-base percentage and started to regain his confidence as a ballplayer.

Greenberg is one of several Jews who have played in the minors for the Dodger organization in recent years. The triple-A affiliate, Las Vegas 51s, featured the pitching talents of Los Angeles native Andrew Lorraine in 2003.

Since the days of Jackie Robinson, the Dodgers have been renowned for their farm system. The club has produced more rookies of the year than any other team in the big leagues.

Greenberg said of his time with the Dodgers, “It was real special. I got a lot of fan mail. The tribe’s a very tight-knit group.” He pointed out that there are “a lot of Jewish Dodger fans, going back to Brooklyn.”

Greenberg, 27, was raised in a Reform home, went to Hebrew and Sunday school and had a bar mitzvah. When he was in Jacksonville, he met a religious Jewish family, attended synagogue and spoke at a Jewish summer camp. He credits his Jewish faith with helping to give him the determination to return to the big leagues.

Although the Dodgers wanted to retain Greenberg in 2007, the club had just signed outfielder Juan Pierre and had promoted Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, two young standouts, to the big leagues, which meant that their outfield had no openings. Since “the opportunity to move up didn’t seem that evident,” Greenberg signed with the Kansas City Royals, where he starred at double-A Wichita last year.

He hit .266, much higher than the year before, and had career highs in doubles with 30, eight home runs and 43 RBIs. A speedster with pop in his bat, Greenberg also led the league with 11 triples and stole 23 bases in 32 attempts, fifth highest in the league.

During this past spring training in Arizona, where he was trying out with the Royals, he said that he played his best ball ever, though he didn’t have an opportunity to play in Cactus League games. That didn’t discourage him, because he knew that new Kansas City manager Trey Hillman came over from Japan and wasn’t as familiar with the minor league players.

The Royals recently released Greenberg, but he is now playing in the independent Atlantic League. He would like to play at Dodger Stadium someday, maybe in the World Series, and have another shot at The Show.

As he said, “There’ll never be any quit in me.”

others, Jackie Robinson. For instance, in Koufax’s second start of his career, he pitched a two-hit shutout and struck out 14 batters, the most in a game that year in the National League. Yet after that sublime outing, Alston scarcely used his rookie hurler for the rest of the season.

Some have speculated that Alston’s handling of Koufax in those years reflected a subtle anti-Semitism. However, Norm Sherry defended Alston, saying not only that he wasn’t anti-Semitic but that, as a manager frequently involved in a pennant race, Alston had to use pitchers who he thought were reliable.

Although Hank Greenberg, the Detroit Tigers’ star in the 1930s and ’40s, heard epithets in his playing days, Sherry said he never confronted prejudice as a player. It is possible that Sherry is not simply being polite. There is no doubt that anti-Semitism had declined by the mid to late 1950s, after Jews had fought in World War II and Korea.

Still, in Leavy’s book, Hank Aaron, the onetime home-run king, recounted the envy and the patronizing — if not bigoted — attitude of some of the players of that era toward the young Koufax, who was making more money than many of them: “Sandy Koufax, being a little Jewish boy, didn’t know anything about baseball…. Everybody thought, ‘Hey, he needs to be somewhere off in school, counting money or doing whatever they do.'”

What Koufax did was develop into arguably the greatest left-handed pitcher in baseball history.

In the 1960s, he won three Cy Young Awards, pitched four no-hitters, including a perfect game in 1965 at Dodger Stadium, and was named World Series MVP in 1963 and 1965. In 1965, during the series, he famously refused to pitch on Yom Kippur. After losing his first start, he came back to twirl two shutouts, the final one on two days rest, as the Dodgers beat the Minnesota Twins in seven games.

That made Jews the MVPs of the first three World Series titles won by the Dodgers in Los Angeles.

For decades, the Dodgers failed to land another Jewish star. They had some near misses, scouting Mike Epstein, a slugger from the Fairfax area, who played for several teams but never Los Angeles. Pitchers Bill Singer and Scott Radinsky were hailed by some as Jews even though they are not.

Then, on the eve of the new millennium, the ballclub signed a multiyear, multimillion-dollar contract with Shawn Green, an All-Star outfielder who had grown up in Tustin. Green, like Koufax before him, became the most eligible bachelor in Los Angeles and had local synagogues eagerly pursuing him as a member.

The best Jewish power hitter since Cleveland’s Al Rosen in the 1950s, Green enjoyed a fine five-year stint with the Dodgers, marked by his 49-home run season in 2001, a team record, and his 42-homer campaign in 2002, in which he broke the major league record for most total bases in a game (19) and tied the record for most home runs in a game (four).

Although his power dipped in his final two seasons in Los Angeles due to a shoulder injury, he still hit a good number of home runs those years. Green never told anyone about the torn labrum until catcher Paul Lo Duca, his friend, found out about it late in the 2003 season.

Highly respected for his baseball skills and stoic nature, Green also lived up to the standards of Koufax and Greenberg by sitting out one game on Yom Kippur during the 2004 pennant drive. However, he played during Kol Nidre and hit a critical home run to help the Dodgers win after sundown.

“I wanted to do what was most consistent with my personal beliefs (not anyone else’s).” Green told The Journal by e-mail.

Although Norm Sherry did not recall discussing the idea of being a Jewish role model with Koufax, the southpaw apparently consulted a rabbi in 1965. In her book, Leavy quoted Rabbi Hillel Silverman as saying that Koufax once told him, “‘I’m Jewish. I’m a role model. I want them to understand they have to have pride.'”

Green, who called Koufax “a great man” and “a hero,” did not seek out Koufax or a rabbi when he decided not to play on Yom Kippur. But early in Green’s career with the Dodgers, he and Koufax did talk about issues surrounding being a Jewish ballplayer. At that time, Koufax told him “to do only what I wanted to do and what I felt was right when it came to playing or not playing on the High Holidays,” Green recounted.

Like Koufax, Greenberg and Larry Sherry, Green elevated his game in the postseason, hitting three home runs for the Dodgers in the 2004 playoffs. That included two in game three at Dodger Stadium, when the Dodgers won their first and only playoff game since 1988. In 2006, as a member of the New York Mets, Green returned to Dodger Stadium for the playoffs and in the clinching game went three for five with two RBIs to eliminate his former team.

Green, who recently retired after two years with the Mets, also played for the Blue Jays and Diamondbacks, but he said, “I will always think of myself as a Dodger…. The fans treated me well right from the start as a local guy as well as a Jewish ballplayer.”

Another recent retiree, Mike Lieberthal, whose father is Jewish, was an All-Star catcher with the Philadelphia Phillies before playing last year for the Dodgers. The Westlake Village resident grew up without any religion. He called Green’s decision not to play on Yom Kippur “a tough one,” since it could be “tough on your teammates. I can’t imagine any player putting himself through that kind of pressure.”

Lieberthal never confronted such a dilemma other than on the HBO show, “Arli$$,” when Robert Wuhl tries to convince the catcher to take off the Jewish holidays. Nonetheless, in his 14-year career, he said that “I felt in a way I was representing the Jewish community because of my name. The Jewish community is just so proud. I was kind of honored.”

Grampa’s Advice: Pass on ‘First-Tell’


It took me six years of being a grandfather to accept the fact that my grandchildren may not be more brilliant or athletic than everyone else’s.

Here’s how I realized it. There’s this thing between grandparents I like to call “first-tell.” Say you meet your friend, another grandparent, and are the first to tell some amazing stories about your grandchildren; if he or she responds by telling you stories that make their grandchildren out to be as talented or more-so than yours, you have every right to assume the grandparent you are talking to is lying. And vice versa: they’ll assume you’re lying if they have “first-tell.” Or, in both cases, you could assume, with great difficulty, that your grandchildren are not above and beyond all others.

What impresses us so much about the abilities of our grandchildren? In my case I must admit it was the comparison of them to me. Ross, at age 3, hits a wiffle ball with a plastic bat better than I could hit a softball with a wooden bat at age 12, even though the bat had Joe Dimaggio’s signature on it. And Max, 6, throws a hardball accurately from third base to home plate. I couldn’t do that until I was in summer camp at age 14 — and then not consistently, costing my green team the championship game against the blues in color war.

But in my defense, I didn’t have a grandfather to drive crazy and exhaust with pleas to “catch with me, grampa,” “pitch to me, grampa.”

One grandfather had passed away before I was born, and the other had lost a leg in some war for or against Russia prior to my birth in 1932. My own father was on crutches from polio he acquired at age 3, and while he could throw very well, since I couldn’t, a game of catch meant him throwing, me catching, me throwing and me chasing the errant ball that I threw back.

The only ball I ever threw both strongly and accurately was a snowball I threw at a target, drawn with chalk on the side door of my synagogue, which was the entrance to the Hebrew school in Englewood, N.J. The snowball would have hit the bull’s-eye had not the rabbi opened the door at that instant to call us all in to class. I lived with guilt for many years — not for hitting the rabbi, but for Sammy Wides’ getting blamed for it (although he took it well and enjoyed the celebrity). In that neighborhood, in those times, I would have been looked down on by the “gang” if I stepped forward, hero-like and said, “It wasn’t him, rabbi, it was me.” (I would have been a total outcast if I said “It wasn’t he.”)

It was less than a week ago that I bumped into a friend with his 6-year-old grandson at the park. Ross and Max were wearing their mitts and I was carrying a bag containing 10 wiffle balls and a bat. It is easier pitching 10 balls and then retrieving them all at once rather than pitching and chasing one ball at a time.

My friend quickly jumped in with “first-tell,” — an unnecessary move, since we were about to see exactly what our grandchildren could do.

“You won’t believe how far Amos can hit a ball,” he said.

“Great”, I replied, deciding I would have my satisfaction when he saw how much better Max and Ross could hit and throw a ball.

“Do you want to pitch?” I offered. He did. I became the catcher.

We all agreed that each child would have five swings, and the other two would play the field. We also agreed that Ross would be the first batter, then Amos and finally Max, who didn’t mind being last when I told him he would be batting “clean up” — a spot usually reserved for the best batter on the team. Max and Ross knew the lingo because they went to many Dodgers games and watched even more on TV. Ross hit two of his five pitches beautifully and although my friend was properly impressed he mouthed, “Wait till you see Amos.”

Amos got up and hit five balls very well, but no better or worse than Max did. Did my friend see what I saw?

Our grandkids are great — but not any greater than each other. I wonder, though, if he was more disappointed than me. He’d bragged about Amos, and I didn’t brag about Max. We both had to learn that our grandsons are special; not because they can throw well or run fast or bat hard, but because they are ours.

Hopefully, Amos’ grandfather will also learn that sometimes it’s good to pass up “first-tell.”

But Will Shawn Green Fast?


When the Dodgers face the San Francisco Giants this weekend in a three-game series beginning in San Francisco this weekend, most Jews will be in synagogue for the holiest day of the year.

What will Shawn Green do?

The first baseman has declined to discuss his Yom Kippur plans with reporters. "I’m not talking about it yet," Green told ESPN on Sunday after the Dodgers played Colorado. "I don’t want the media making a big deal out of it."

But the media is making a big deal out of it, and by Tuesday night, a Dodgers official said that Green will sit out Saturday’s game — but will still play on Friday night, the Los Angeles Times reported. Yom Kippur, of course, begins at sundown on Friday night. The unnamed official said Green felt he’d be letting down his team if he skipped two games.

As of press time, Green had not yet made an announcement regarding his final decision.

The $24,000 "will he or won’t he play on Yom Kippur" question follows Green around like his Jewish fan club ever since he skipped a crucial game on Sept. 26, 2001 — because of Yom Kippur — which ended a streak of 415 consecutive games played. Dodger Sandy Koufax refused to pitch the first game of the 1965 World Series due to Yom Kippur.

Home Run


Shawn Green sits quietly in the Dodgers dugout waiting for pregame batting practice to begin. His unassuming nature seems at odds with his 6-foot-4 figure; his quiet presence inconsistent with his celebrity.

But then Green seems to live in contrast. He is not observant but is proud of his Jewish roots. He is not religious but understands his actions reflect upon the Jewish community, and he acts accordingly. He’s an icon to religious children, but is intermarried. He shuns the spotlight but steps up to his Jewish role model post.

Green never set out to become a public Jewish figure. He grew up in a nonpracticing family in Tustin. He didn’t attend Hebrew school; he never had a bar mitzvah.

“I’m still not really religious,” the Dodgers’ first baseman said. “But when I started playing in Toronto and traveling around, people from the Jewish community reached out to me. So I learned a lot more about my heritage.”

Since then, Green has become a household Jewish name. When leaving Toronto five years ago, Green asked to be placed in a city with a significant Jewish population. He skipped a crucial 2001 game against the San Francisco Giants, because it landed on Yom Kippur. He’s been honored by Jewish groups and spoken at Jewish events.

Still, Green is clear about the extent of his personal observance; he does not inflate the role Judaism plays in personal life, in his family life.

Green met his wife, Lindsay — who is not Jewish — in line at a Wahoo’s Fish Taco restaurant. After talking for a few minutes they realized that they were set to go on a blind date just a few days later. Last year, the happily married couple had a daughter, Presley.

“Fatherhood is the best thing I’ve experienced in my life so far,” Green said.

Green said he plans to give his daughter an understanding of both her religious heritages. “We’re going to expose her to everything. She’s lucky, because she gets to celebrate all the holidays,” said Green, straightening his long legs away from the bench.

With the birth of his daughter, Green gained a greater appreciation for his young fans.

“It changed the way I interact with kids around the stadium,” said Green, who admits to spending most of his free time messing around on his Apple computer, tinkering with digital pictures and videos he’s taken of his daughter. “I understand when parents are a little pushy to get their kids to the front of the line for autographs. I understand a little bit more now, because I have a daughter of my own.”

It’s the Jewish kids who have claimed Green as their own. Before every home game, a crowd of children gather near the field, hoping for autographs or just a hello from the left-handed power hitter. The stands are filled with children clad in No. 15 jerseys, children who keep Shawn Green bobbleheads on their nightstands and marked Shawn Green free T-shirt day in their calendars (May 14).

“The best feeling is when someone comes up to you and says, ‘Hey, how you doing? I enjoy watching you play.’ Or when a kid asks me for an autograph and has that appreciative look in his eyes. That means a lot to me,” Green said.

Green is not the first Jewish baseball player, nor the only one to currently play in the league, but he is today’s most celebrated. Mention “Jewish sports” in a conversation, and his is the first name to be dropped. Google Jewish baseball players, he’ll have the most links — well over a million. Survey young Jewish baseball fans, and he’s their favorite.

“It’s amazing that one of the best players in Los Angeles is Jewish,” said 11-year-old Eli Mordecai, a student at Torah Emes. “I play baseball all the time. When I pick up the bat, I try to swing like Green, then I run the bases like Green. I even wear my hat like him,” said Eli, who was celebrating his birthday at Dodger Stadium.

As a child, Green dreamed of being a baseball star, not a Jewish star. But slowly, he came to see himself as his community sees him; he began to understand why his success means so much to them.

“There are not a ton of Jewish athletes; there are several really good Jewish baseball players and a few in some other sports,” said Green, his eyes focusing on the field. “So I understand that Jewish kids who follow baseball are going to follow me, because I’m Jewish. I would have done the same thing as a kid; that’s just how it is.”

The kids seem to do more than follow Green, they adore him. They admire him.

“Shawn Green is my favorite player,” said Janice Spiegel, 10, a student at Sinai Akiba. “He’s my favorite, because he’s good, but also because he’s Jewish.”

The children like knowing there’s a Jewish uniform on the field. They brag about Green; they identify with him.

“Usually, we’re looking up to Michael Jordan or Shaq, but with Shawn Green, it’s different,” said Noah Miller, 14. “You think that could be me.”

Green understands that Jewish children look up to him; he knows his high-profile position comes with responsibility. Setting an example for his young fans, Green fills his life with mitzvot, or good deeds.

Every year, he donates $250,000 of his salary to the Dodgers Dream Foundation, an organization that builds baseball fields in impoverished neighborhoods and neglected parks. He is active in The Johnny Fund, a pediatric leukemia organization, and was at one point the spokesman for KOREH L.A., which sends out Jewish volunteers to increase literary rates among children.

Even during his recent hitting slump, Green said his performance, or lack of it, can teach something to the kids who watch his every play.

“People who really pay attention to baseball will see that even their favorite players struggle,” said Green, who’s batting average fell to .249 this year. “We always talk about how baseball is so much like life, but it really is. There are a lot of ups and downs; you just try to ride the wave, get through the tough times and not dwell on them. There’s a lesson in that.”

Green leads by example. He’s not known for his wild partying or outlandish behavior. His life is not the stuff of tabloid headlines and water cooler gossip.

He’s private, slightly superstitious and noticeably normal. He listens to Dave Matthews, John Mayer, Metallica — even a little bit of country. He tries to eat healthy but admits to sneaking his share of hamburgers. He prefers not to travel in the off-season and tries to put his family first.

“I like to stay low and out of the spotlight, stay home and be pretty mellow. Now that I have a family, I just really enjoy spending time with them,” Green said.

Green may avoid the limelight, but his Judaism will always draw attention. Members of the media, the Jewish community and baseball fans everywhere qualify Green as the Jewish hitter.

But would it not be saying more if a Jewish athlete could play alongside non-Jewish athletes without marking him a phenomenon? Major League Baseball draws players from all ethnicities and backgrounds and seldom makes note of these issues.

So why dwell on Green’s religion? Labeling Green as unique may inspire Jewish children, or it may dishearten them, reminding them how few Jews succeed in professional sports.

“I see both sides of it. You’re always going to feel a closer connection to someone with the same background as yourself,” Green said. “That doesn’t mean a Jewish kid’s favorite player is always going to be Jewish. It means he can relate to the customs that a Jewish person was raised with.”

“I think in that sense, it’s nice to see those people in your favorite endeavors, whether it’s baseball or movies or whatever,” he said. “I’m glad these kids feel they can relate to me.”

Green, the accidental celebrity, has found balance between his private life and his public persona. He’s grown into his role in the Jewish community with grace.

“I’m comfortable with it,” said Green, smiling.

Hot Dog Blues


Yoshinoya and a sushi restaurant sprang up at Dodgers Stadium after Japanese pitcher Hideo Nomo donned blue, but it’s going to be a while before L.A. fans will be able to bite into a kosher Dodger dog, even with the addition of Jewish outfielder Shawn Green.

When Dodger fan Stuart Tochner took a tour of East Coast ballparks in 1998, the plethora of kosher hot dog vendors amazed him. The popularity of kosher pups at ballgames is undeniable. That same year, Rabbi David Senter, who operates stands at Yankee and Shea Stadium, averaged sales of 600 hot dogs per week.
Tochner, who often brings his own food or eats pizza or French fries at games, wanted a kosher alternative to Farmer John’s pork-laden Dodger dog. Together with Paul Cunningham, Tochner contacted Irvin Lonzo at Aramark — the company responsible for concessions at Dodger Stadium — and requested kosher hot dogs be added to the regular menu.

“We have a pretty substantial Jewish community here, and you don’t have much of a choice if you want to have a meal at Dodger Stadium,” said Cunningham.

Based on positive feedback from Lonzo, Tochner and Cunningham were hopeful that Aramark would be able to follow through for the 2001 season. Recently, Cunningham received an e-mail from Lonzo stating that due to contractual obligations with Farmer John he was unable to sell the product.

Lonzo told The Journal that the Dodgers did push to have kosher hot dogs served during a 2000 season Jewish night, and “when the contract [with Farmer John] expires, we can then explore this avenue.”

“I really hope that there’s some way the Dodgers can offer kosher hot dogs at the ballpark. I think there are many Jewish fathers who would love to be able to share that experience with their kids,” said Tochner.

Shawn Green — Following in Koufax’s Footsteps


Shawn Green has a reputation for being an excellent student. At Tustin High School in Orange County, he graduated third in his class. As a member of the Toronto Blue Jays, he polished his baseball skills quickly, earning a promotion to the major leagues at 23. As a big leaguer, his learning curve was steep as well, and after being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers this fall, the all-star was rewarded with a six year, $84 million dollar contract, making him one of the five highest paid players in the game.

While in Toronto, as his career was taking off, Green attracted the attention of the local Jewish community. “People would contact me or my agent, and over time it made me start to really think about the unique position I was in; I became more interested in helping out and getting involved,” he noted.

Now that Green is home and among family and friends again, he is turning his considerable focus on a new area of study. “I want to learn more about my religion,” said the 27-year-old right fielder, who was never bar mitzvah-ed. “The history, the traditions, and what it means to me at this stage of my life.”

As a high-profile Jewish athlete in a Jewish community where many people grew up following the exploits of Dodger Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax, Green has been inundated with requests for both his time and money since the day he signed his Dodgers contract. At least six or seven requests a week pass his way, ranging from individuals wanting him to attend a child’s bar/bat mitzvah, be a guest at a synagogue or grace the opening of a new building. Most recently, he attended the opening of a Jewish Community Center in West Hills, close to where he grew up, but he’s mostly taking a wait-and-see attitude.

“It’s been a little overwhelming, but I’m enjoying it too,” he said. “I’m a very private person, but I’m also interested in learning and exploring; I’m trying to take my time with all of it and make some informed decisions rather than just jumping in without thinking.”

This kind of maturity and perspective is one reason the Dodgers were so aggressive in their pursuit of Green. “Shawn not only has tremendous talent,” said Dodgers legend Tommy Lasorda, “but he’s very mature, and we feel he will develop into a real leader over the next few years.”

As a youngster, Green grew up hearing of the accomplishments of Jewish baseball stars like Koufax and fellow Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg. However, it was an award given to a lesser known Jewish hurler that really caught Green’s attention. “I definitely was aware of Koufax and his statistics, as well as his refusal to pitch on Yom Kippur even though it was the first game of the World Series,” said Green. “But when Steve Stone won the Cy Young [award] for the Orioles, that hit home, because he was someone I’d actually seen play.”