Israel’s players line up for the national anthem before a World Baseball Classic game against the Netherlands, in Tokyo. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

Campaign to build baseball stadium in Israel takes off after World Baseball Classic


Plans to build the first regulation baseball stadium in Israel have gathered steam in the wake of Team Israel’s surprisingly strong performance in the World Baseball Classic.

Members of Team Israel participated in the groundbreaking for the complex in Beit Shemesh, a city located near Jerusalem with a large ex-patriate American population. Most of the team roster was American Jewish players with major and minor league experience who came in December with their families to visit Israel and meet Israeli fans before representing the country in the international tournament.

It is one of several baseball fields being built in Israel through the Jewish National Fund’s Project Baseball.

Following Team Israel’s three victories in the first round of the World Baseball Classic and its win in the first game of the second round, the Beit Shemesh stadium project has received donations from around the world through a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign, bringing the total to $11,000 as of Tuesday morning. The goal is $850,000.

The city of Beit Shemesh provided the Israel Association of Baseball with the land for the complex, which will include a regulation-size baseball field for adult play and two smaller fields for youth baseball, batting cages, dugouts, lights and spectator stands.

The Israel Association of Baseball, founded in 1986 by a group of expatriate baseball enthusiasts living in Israel with the goal of promoting and teaching the game of baseball in Israel, has been renting local soccer fields for games and practices. It has about 1,000 participants throughout the country from Little League to adult.

Sam Fuld of the Israeli World Baseball Classic team reacting after striking out in a game against the Netherlands at the Tokyo Dome, March 13. Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images.

Team Israel suffers first loss in World Baseball Classic


Israel’s surprising squad in the World Baseball Classic lost its first game in the tournament, dropping a rematch with the Netherlands, 12-2.

Israel is now 1-1 in the second round of the 16-team quadrennial tournament and 4-1 overall. Israel likely must defeat powerhouse Japan on Wednesday to advance to the semifinals.

Didi Gregorius, the New York Yankees’ shortstop, homered and drove in five runs to power the Netherlands. The game was called after eight innings due to the mercy rule stopping a contest with a team trailing by 10 runs after seven innings or 15 runs when at least five innings have been played.

Israel was the lowest-ranked team to qualify for the showcase tournament, coming in at 41st in the world. But last week in the first round, the Israelis squeaked past third-ranked South Korea, 2-1, in extra innings, outscored fourth-ranked Taiwan, 15-7, and defeated ninth-ranked the Netherlands, 4-2, to finish first in Pool A with a 3-0 record.

This is the first year that Israel has qualified for the tournament. In 2012, its inaugural WBC squad narrowly missed advancing past the qualifiers.

Most of the players are American Jews, among them several former major leaguers. WBC rules state that players who are eligible for citizenship of a country may play on its team. Jews and their grandchildren, and the grandchildren’s spouses, have the right to become Israeli citizens.

Israel’s World Baseball Classic team celebrating during a game against Chinese Taipei at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, South Korea, on March 7. Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

Israel blasts Chinese Taipei 15-7 in second game of World Baseball Classic


Team Israel blasted Chinese Taipei in its second game of the World Baseball Classic.

Israel overwhelmed the Chinese Taipei team 15-7 early Tuesday in Seoul for its second straight win in the country’s first appearance in the tournament.

Israel defeated Korea 2-1 in ten innings on Monday. It is scheduled to play the Netherlands on Wednesday.

This is the first year that the Israeli team has qualified for the quadrennial baseball tournament, in which 16 countries are represented. In 2012, Israel’s inaugural WBC team narrowly missed making the tournament.

The top two teams from each of the four groups in the tournament will advance to the second round next week in Japan.

The game marks the first time that American Jewish baseball players, including several current and former Major League Baseball players, are representing Israel in a world championship. World Baseball Classic rules state that players who are eligible for citizenship of a country may play on that country’s team. Ten current and former Jewish major leaguers representing Israel in the World Baseball Classic visited Israel in December.

Chinese Taipei has three players, all pitchers, who play for Major League Baseball teams.

In an article published on Sunday, ESPN described the Israeli team as “the Jamaican bobsled team of the WBC.”

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in London on Feb. 17. Photo by Toby Melville/Reuters

Daily Kickoff: Trump’s Shabbat Tweets | Israel – dubbed Jamaican bobsled team of WBC – upsets South Korea | Tony Blair as Trump’s Middle East envoy?


AND TRUMP TWEETED ON THE SEVENTH DAY… “Inside Trump’s fury: The president rages at leaks, setbacks and accusations” by Philip Rucker, Robert Costa and Ashley Parker: “President Donald Trump spent the weekend at “the winter White House,” Mar-a-Lago, the secluded Florida castle where he is king… His daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner – celebrated as calming influences on the tempestuous president – joined him. But they were helpless to contain his fury.” [WashPost]

Mike Allen in Axios AM: “Six weeks (44 days) into his presidency, Donald Trump, when left alone because Jared and Ivanka are observing the Sabbath, still bangs out tweets (with episodic misspellings) making wild accusations based on flimsy or nonexistent evidence.” [Axios

Jason Zengerle: “Jared Kushner should really look into hiring a Shabbos goy.” [Twitter]

“Sabbath’s Tweeter: A scientific examination of the garbage Trump posts on Jared and Ivanka’s day of rest” by Andrew Kahn: “As of this writing, Trump has tweeted 1,257 times—plus anything he’s deleted—since he received his party’s nomination for president on July 19, 2016. If we skim off Trump’s copy-and-paste retweets, that number falls to 1,171. According to the conventional wisdom, only tweets sent from an Android device were written by Trump himself. There are 918 of those within this group. Seventy-seven were sent between sundown on a Friday and sundown on a Saturday, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s sunset estimates at the longitude and latitude of Trump Tower. (Many observant Jews start Shabbat a bit earlier and end a bit later, but those rabbinically sanctioned cutoffs are not easily accessible in my statistical software.)” [Slate• All of Trump’s Saturday tweets since taking office [Axios]

Noga Tarnopolsky: “To proponents of the Shabbat Tweeting hypothesis: Jared & Ivanka Kushner are with Trump in Florida this weekend & it hasn’t really helped.” [Twitter

John Podhoretz: “If it is true that Trump needs the Kushners around on Shabbat not to be crazy, I hereby approve Jared’s conversion to goy.” [Twitter]

TOP TALKER: “Tony Blair’s secret White House summit in bid to work for Trump” by Simon Walters: “The former Prime Minister held talks with Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner on Wednesday with a view to becoming a Middle East peace envoy for Trump. This newspaper has learned that Blair and Kushner have met three times in secret since September, including their three-hour summit in the West Wing last week… A well-placed source said Blair’s role could be as Kushner’s senior adviser: ‘Blair has been pitching hard for this job and Trump’s people are taking him very seriously.’” [DailyMail• Tony Blair denies report he was offered job as Trump’s Middle East peace envoy [Independent]

Amid a wave of anti-Semitism, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo came to Israel yesterday to deliver a message of ‘Hineini’ — by JI’s Jacob Kornbluh covering Cuomo in Jerusalem: “New York’s principles are built on a rock. They will not change, and the political winds will not change them,” Cuomo said in a joint appearance with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, following a tour of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. “To the people of Israel, I say that these acts will not be tolerated. New York State has reacted aggressively with extraordinary measures, more aggressively than any other state in the nation – I am proud to say.” Cuomo said the purpose of this 24-hour trip was to send a message: “Hineini. I am here. I’ve been here before. I will be here again. Our relationship is enduring. The relationship between the people of the Jewish community and the state of New York is built on mutual support and respect. It’s built on love. And that will not change.” [JewishInsider

— During a press conference at the King David hotel, Cuomo also announced the launch of a 22-member joint commission that will explore new opportunities to strengthen economic and cultural ties between New York and Israel, chaired by Mort Zuckerman, along with Malcolm Hoenlein, Howard Zemsky, Linda Mirel and OU’s Allen Fagin who will serve as co-chairs. Members include Stuart Appelbaum, AIPAC’s Bob Cohen, Abe Foxman, George Klein, JCRC’s Michael Miller, Rabbi Joe Potasnik, Jack Bendheim, Burton Resnick, Bill Rudin, Charles Temel, Randi Weingarten, Sol Werdiger, Jeffrey Richard, Alisa Doctoroff, Sara Berman, and Howard Zucker.   

Addressing the U.S.-Israel relationship and erosion of support for Israel within the Democratic Party, Cuomo told Jewish Insider, that one of the reasons he formed an economic development cooperation with Israel is because “there are political divides that are getting harsher and louder and people now debate whether you need Israel as a strategic ally — even though I don’t believe there is anything to debate about. When I took the anti-BDS action, I can tell you there was quite a bit of opposition. I think fortifying the relationship with the cultural and economic aspects, will make the relationship even stronger and clearer for all Americans.”

Cuomo on Jerusalem Embassy: “Look, Jerusalem is the capital [of Israel]. But it’s certainly a security concern, and that would be a decision that you would have to talk to Israel about. And whatever is in their best interest, I think, should govern.”

PHOTO: Cuomo at the Western Wall [Pic

Dan Shapiro, who attended Cuomo’s business roundtable, tells us: “Speaking as a private citizen, I am touched by Gov. Cuomo’s decision to come on such short notice to hit a couple of very important notes. One is a message of solidarity at a time when the U.S. Jewish community is feeling vulnerable because of the anti-Semitic incidents over the last weeks, and tying that to the vulnerability Israelis always feel because of the threats they face. And the second, expressing his commitment to deepening the economic partnership between New York and Israel, of course as part of a larger economic partnership between the two nations. It’s a source of incredible opportunity, a mutual benefit already, and with the sky as a limit for what can be achieved. And on top of that, it is the best answer to the voice calling for BDS. Gov. Cuomo has been a leading voice to oppose BDS.”” 

HOW IT PLAYED: “Cuomo, in Whirlwind Tour of Jerusalem, Shows Support for Israel” by Jesse McKinley: “He toured. He prayed. He visited an ancient tomb. He broke bread, cracked jokes and even wedged in some Albany arm-twisting. And he prompted flags to appear all over, even in the middle of cobblestone streets… But as with all things Cuomo lately, the trip is also being seen through the prism of politics, particularly the continued speculation about the governor’s potential presidential ambitions. It is a notion he has been actively tamping down, even if his actions — such as a last-minute trip to a country that looms large in discussions of American foreign policy — seem to feed the idea. “It’s unfortunate in many ways because it suggests a political nature to everything, which frankly fuels the cynicism about the whole process,” said Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, who added that anti-Semitism was a personal issue: Two of his sisters are married to Jewish men. “If you really care, you show up,” he said. “And I really care.” [NYTimes]

“Former US envoy to Israel to join Tel Aviv-based think tank” by Alexander Fulbright: “Dan Shapiro will join the Institute for National Security studies as a visiting fellow… INSS cited Shapiro’s “rich experience” working on issues pertaining to Israel and the Middle East in its decision to hire him, pointing not only to his work as ambassador, but also as a member of the US National Security Council and an adviser on foreign affairs to Congress.” [ToI]

“In Israel, Lauding and Lamenting the Era of Trump” by Ian Fisher: “The unenviable challenge facing the Israeli government is how to express its visceral horror over the resurgence of anti-Semitism in the U.S. without becoming a pawn in America’s partisan debate or jeopardizing its critical working relationship with the administration,” said Shalom Lipner…” [NYTimes]

“US delegation in Israel to study relocation of embassy to Jerusalem” by Tovah Lazaroff: “”The delegation (led by Congressman Ron DeSantis) is in Jerusalem to learn first hand what it will mean to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” said Ruth Lieberman, a friend of DeSantis and a political advisor in Israel. “Its leadership intends to return to Congress with a report and a deeper understanding of what to expect, and of some of the decisions that have to be made as well,” Lieberman said… The delegation will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli political leaders during their visit.” [JPost• Will US move its Israel embassy to Jerusalem? [CNN

“Trump Team’s Links to Russia Crisscross in Washington” by Scott Shane and Andrew Kramer: “And Jason Greenblatt, a former Trump Organization lawyer and now a special representative for international negotiations at the White House, met last summer with Rabbi Berel Lazar, the chief rabbi of Russia and an ally of Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin.” [NYTimes

“Trump pleads for cash at closed donor retreat” by Darren Samuelsohn and Marc Caputo: “At one point, he poked fun at Steve Wynn, the RNC finance chair and billionaire owner of a Las Vegas casino, for not backing him at the start of the 2016 campaign. Wynn, who initially backed Sen. Marco Rubio, wasn’t the only one in the room to have initially picked a different horse in the 2016 Republican primary race, drawing Trump’s scorn at the time.” [Politico

“Ivanka Trump Tours Holocaust Museum as Father Considers Visit” by Jennifer Jacobs: “Ivanka Trump took a private tour of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum this week without her father, who is considering his own visit… She was accompanied by her mother- and father-in-law, Charles and Seryl Kushner. Ivanka Trump’s husband Jared Kushner’s late grandmother, Rae Kushner, was a Holocaust survivor who helped found the Holocaust Museum.” [Bloomberg

THIS WEEK ON THE HILL: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will vote on whether to confirm David Friedman as U.S. Ambassador to Israel on Thursday.  

“JFNA’s Sandler taking heat for support of David Friedman” by Eitan Arom: “The comments reported in the press were in response to a question directed to me about David Friedman and reflected my personal view, based upon my analysis of the situation and my personal contact with Mr. Friedman,” Sandler wrote in an email to JFNA trustees… Others in the community were more disappointed than angry about Sandler’s comments. “He’s done a lot for both the L.A. as well as the national Jewish community,” Adam Wergeles, a co-founder of the West L.A. congregation IKAR, told the Journal… “And it is upsetting to see someone like Sandler — who’s kind of using his stature — to support what felt to me like Friedman’s very convenient and self-serving retraction.” [JewishJournal]

“The End of the Libertarian Dream? Long on the fringes of American politics, small-government conservatives were closer than ever to mainstream acceptance. Then two things happened: Donald Trump and Jihadi John” by Tim Alberta: “I think the McCain-Graham wing of the party is withering,” Amash tells me in his office, referring to South Carolina’s hawkish senator. “It was dominant 10 or 15 years ago on foreign policy matters and surveillance and other things. But today, it’s a rather weak force compared to a decade ago in D.C. And it’s almost nonexistent at home.” And yet, Trump also pledged to oversee a massive military buildup. He threatened to “bomb the shit out of” the Islamic State; suggested killing the families of terrorists; expressed an interest in seizing Iraq’s sovereign oil; advocated the return of torture; and, in his inaugural address, declared he would eradicate Islamist terrorism “from the face of the Earth.” When I mention all this, Amash bursts out laughing. “Not exactly a libertarian philosophy,” I say. “No,” he shakes his head. “It’s not.”” [Politico

“Israeli Arab Leader Angers J Street by Criticizing Labor Party” by Chaim Levinson: “While addressing J Street’s national conference in Washington last week, Joint List leader MK Ayman Odeh lashed out at the Zionist Union, saying the center-left party “failed” in its role as the opposition, and ignoring a request by J Street not to criticize the party. As Odeh left the podium following his speech, the visibly angry J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami demonstrably did not shake Odeh’s hand, sources present said.” [Haaretz

KAFE KNESSET — Buzz on Balfour — by Tal Shalev: Police investigators are set to arrive to the Prime Minister’s Balfour residence this afternoon for the fourth time to continue the probe of “File 1000,” concerning alleged gifts from millionaires Arnon Milchan and James Packer, and “File 2000,” regarding his contacts with Noni Mozes, the publisher of the Yedioth Aharonoth daily. For weeks the police have been waiting to continue questioning Netanyahu but due to his constant traveling lately it took quite a while to coordinate the meeting. Today, Netanyahu cancelled the weekly Likud faction meeting and will be facing some difficult questions instead. Police chief Roni Alsheikh said today that “we are at the end, and now conducting last supplements of the investigation. We don’t have much left to complete and the minute we are finished we will reach a conclusion and pass is it on to the Attorney General.”

Meanwhile, right wing pressure on Netanyahu is growing. The PM succeeded in postponing until next week the ministerial vote on the Maale Adumim bill, which seeks to apply Israeli sovereignty on that West Bank city.  Defense Minister Liberman told the Knesset’s Defense and Foreign Affairs committee today that Israel received a clear message from the Trump administration that applying sovereignty to Maale Adumim will lead to a crisis. Meanwhile, the Jewish Home party is not sitting still and is also pushing Netanyahu to stand by his commitment to establish a new settlement for the Amona evacuees. 

Netanyahu has denied reports that he is reconsidering the Amona resettlement move due to White House pressure, but Bennet and friends apparently don’t believe him. Minister Uri Ariel has started to circulate a draft of a government resolution that will start the planning and construction of the settlement. Yesterday at the weekly meeting of coalition party heads, Bennet asked Netanyahu about what is happening with the new settlement and pointed out that the residents are now on a hunger strike. “Its complicated. We haven’t reached understandings with the US yet. We are committed to finding a solution and don’t need more pressure or any recommendations.” Liberman also weighed in, and with humor asked Bennet “Where are they on strike? I need to lose some weight, perhaps I’ll join them.” This reply provoked a strong and angry reaction from the Amona settlers. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

** Good Monday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip, scoop, or op-ed? We’d love to hear from you. Anything from hard news and punditry to the lighter stuff, including event coverage, job transitions, or even special birthdays, is much appreciated. Email Editor@JewishInsider.com **

SPOTLIGHT: “Financiers Fight Over the American Dream” by Sheelah Kolhatkar: “Ackman grew up in the affluent New York City suburb of Chappaqua, where his father ran a brokerage firm. He graduated from Harvard College and then Harvard Business School, where he was on the rowing team, and had a reputation as someone who couldn’t keep his opinions to himself. He and the rest of the team had rowed with oars adorned with dollar signs. “Let’s face up to what HBS represents,” he wrote in the student newspaper. “We spend 90% of our studies at HBS pursuing the maximization of the dollar.” 

“Ackman wasn’t prepared for what came next, however. Two weeks later, the legendary investor Carl Icahn lashed out at Ackman and his Herbalife play on Bloomberg Television. “It’s no secret I don’t like Ackman,” Icahn said. “I think if you’re short you go short, and, hey, if it goes down, you make money. You don’t go out and get a roomful of people to bad-mouth the company. If you want to be in that business, why don’t you go and join the S.E.C.?” He went on, “I don’t respect him. . . . Don’t be holier than thou and say, ‘Look, I’m doing this for the good of the world, and I want to see sunshine on Herbalife.’ I mean, that’s bullshit.” “I’ve really sort of had it with this guy Ackman,” Icahn said. “He’s like the crybaby in the schoolyard. I went to a tough school in Queens, and they used to beat up the little Jewish boys. He was like one of these little Jewish boys, crying that the world was taking advantage of him.” [NewYorker]

“VCs, startups: Stop networking so much” by Bradley Tusk: “My advice to the venture and startup community is this: Stop talking so much. Stop meeting with each other so much. Stop drinking so much coffee. Focus on your product, your service, your technology. Focus on your investments, your portfolio companies, your value proposition. Just knowing lots of other people who do roughly the same thing you do is not all that useful.” [VB]

The rise of the useless class: “Historian Yuval Noah Harari makes a bracing prediction: just as mass industrialization created the working class, the AI revolution will create a new unworking class.” [Ideas.Ted]

“Do People Look Like Their Names?” by Daniel Akst: “In a series of intriguing experiments, [Yonat] Zwebner and colleagues at Israel’s Hebrew University and IDC Herzliya and France’s HEC Paris found that volunteers shown a headshot of a person and four or five possible names can pick the correct name at a significantly higher rate than chance… In one experiment, volunteers in Israel were shown 25 neutral photos of young, Israeli-born adults known by their reasonably common first names (not nicknames). Shown a picture of a young man, people might be asked, for example, if his given name was Yaakov, Dan, Yosef or Netanel. The volunteers got the right answer 30% of the time, compared with the 25% rate expected if everyone had simply guessed.” [WSJ]   

HEARD OVER THE WEEKEND – Jeffrey Goldberg discusses rise in anti-Semitism on NPR’s Weekend Edition: “These things happened before Donald Trump… What happened right now, I think, is because of a certain narrative just developed around Donald Trump. People are saying this is the cause of these incidents. And I just think that that might be a little bit premature or a little bit oversimplistic. We’ve had serious incidents of anti-Semitism in this country for years and years and years. They did not start on January 20.” [NPR

MEDIA WATCH: “The Declining Fortunes of Women at The Times” by Liz Spayd: “Men accounted for 61 percent of the bylines that appeared in the front section of The Times last year, according to data soon to be published by the Women’s Media Center… That put The Times in the middle of the pack, which is a vast improvement over the previous two years, when it ranked last. (Partial credit surely goes to political correspondent Maggie Haberman, whose byline, I’m told, drew more page views last year than any other reporter at The Times — an eye-popping 141 million.)” [NYTimes

TRANSITION: JI reader Herbert Block was appointed last week as the American Zionist Movement (AZM) new Executive Director. He is succeeding Karen Rubinstein who is retiring after 40 years with AZM.

DESSERT: “Israeli Cabinet Makes Move to Decriminalize Recreational Marijuana Use” by Ian Fisher: “Israel, which has been at the forefront of research into medical marijuana and the drug’s commercialization, took a major step on Sunday toward officially decriminalizing its recreational use. At a time when many American states and European countries are loosening marijuana laws, the Israeli cabinet approved a plan that would impose fines rather than criminal penalties on those caught using the drug in public.” [NYTimes]

SPORTS BLINK: “With Mirth and a Mensch, Israel Upsets South Korea in W.B.C.” by Ken Belson: “When Sam Fuld, a journeyman outfielder, hit a line-drive single to open an exhibition game between Team Israel and a squad representing the South Korean Army the other day, one of his teammates on the bench, third baseman Cody Decker, yelled, “Nobody, and I mean nobody, no-hits the Jews!” The exhortation was part bravado, part sarcasm, part siren call. Team Israel is one of the lowest-ranked of the 16 teams in the World Baseball Classic that began here in Seoul on Monday… But miracle of miracles, Israel won its tournament debut on Monday by beating South Korea, 2-1.” [NYTimes]

“Team Israel — and its mascot, Mensch on a Bench — is the Jamaican bobsled team of the WBC” by Eddie Matz: “Hollywood isn’t the only place where [Ty] Kelly’s networking skills have helped him. Last spring training in Port St. Lucie, a conversation with a couple of Jewish fans about Kelly’s background (his mother is Jewish) led to a phone call from Peter Kurz, president of the IAB (Israel Association of Baseball). Prior to that call, Kelly — whose father is Irish Catholic and who was baptized while in elementary school — had no clue that he even qualified for Team Israel. “I always figured that if I played in the WBC, it’d be based on my Irish or German ancestors,” he says. A year later, thanks to the Classic’s “Heritage Rule,” he’s rocking the Star of David on his cap, part of a decidedly anonymous roster that screams what-could’ve-been.” [ESPNUSAToday

BIRTHDAYS: Chairman of the Federal Reserve of the United States from 1987 to 2006, Alan Greenspan turns 91… Actor, writer, director, producer and political activist, directed “When Harry Met Sally” and “A Few Good Men,” Rob Reiner turns 70… Musical theatre lyricist and composer, winner of three Oscars, three Grammys and received six Tony Award nominations, Stephen Schwartz turns 69… Actor, comedian and sports show host, converted to Judaism upon marrying Roseanne Barr in 1990, Tom Arnold turns 58… Head of Innovation Communication at Bloomberg LP, Chaim Haas turns 42… Former football quarterback who played on six NFL teams (2001-2012), member of the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, Sage Rosenfels turns 39… Fourth generation developer, owner, and operator of commercial real estate throughout the Mid-Atlantic Region, Daniel Klein turns 36… Israeli fashion model who has appeared in international campaigns for many world-wide brands, Esti Ginzburg turns 27… Artist and founder / director of Tikkun Olam Journeys, introducing young Americans to a cross-section of social causes in Israel, Tova Suissa… Senior director for business development and client services at NYC-based Jewish Communal Fund, Michelle Lebowitz… Princeton University student who interned for Senator Marco Rubio, Theodore Furchtgott… University of Miami student who is a member of the Israel Project’s Tower Tomorrow Fellowship, Riley Clafton… Aliza Tendler… Sandra Brown… Nelson Katz

Gratuity not included. We love receiving news tips but we also gladly accept tax deductible tips. 100% of your donation will go directly towards improving Jewish Insider. Thanks! [PayPal]

Pitcher Josh Zeid celebrates Israel’s win against South Korea in the World Baseball Classic in Seoul, South Korea, on March 6. Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

Israel upsets Korea in first game of World Baseball Classic


Team Israel defeated Korea in the first game of the World Baseball Classic.

Israel topped Korea 2-1 in the 10th inning on Monday in Seoul. Team Israel had 8 hits to Korea’s 7 in the hard-fought game.

The Israeli team is scheduled to play the team from Chinese Taipei later on Monday, and the Netherlands on Wednesday.

This is the first year that the Israeli team has qualified for the quadrennial baseball tournament, in which 16 countries are represented. In 2012, Israel’s inaugural WBC team narrowly missed making the tournament.

The game marks the first time that American Jewish baseball players, including several current and former Major League Baseball players, are representing Israel in a world championship. World Baseball Classic rules state that players who are eligible for citizenship of a country may play on that country’s team.

Israel is the only participant in this year’s tournament not currently among the top 20 in the world rankings. Israel is ranked 41st in the world.

The game was not broadcast on any of Israel’s major television channels or sports channels.

Ten current and former Jewish major leaguers representing Israel in the World Baseball Classic visited Israel in December.

In an article published on Sunday, ESPN described the Israeli team as “the Jamaican bobsled team of the WBC.”

Ex-Westboro Baptist Church daughter: ‘I love them Jews’


Megan and Grace Phelps-Roper have come a long way since they left their family — which also happens to be one of America’s most controversial — in November 2012.

For one, the two former Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) sisters have now attended a Southern California Jewish festival, Jewlicious, twice in as many years. (It’s the same event they picketed with their family’s church in 2010, when their sister, Rebekah, held a sign that read, “Your rabbi is a whore,” directed at the head of Jewlicious, Rabbi Yonah Bookstein.)

Meeting for an interview with the Journal at the bar of the Queen Mary cruise ship in Long Beach — where they attended this year’s Jewlicious festival, which attracted hundreds of young Southern California Jews for a weekend retreat — they discussed everything from love to religion.

Grace, who just turned 21, said she regularly attends Friday night Shabbat services at Temple Beth Sholom, the Reform Topeka, Kansas, synagogue that she used to picket — and which her family still pickets.

“I really like the singing,” Grace said, adding that she has seen her family at its usual protest spot outside the synagogue as she drives into the lot. “I don’t know if they know I go.”

Although WBC is small, with only a few dozen members, it has made the news for picketing soldiers’ funerals (“Pray for More Dead Soldiers”), Jewish events (“God Hates Israel”), gay pride events (“USA=Fag Nation”) and numerous other gatherings related to issues that it believes are sinful.

When the sisters left the church, and their family, they were immediately cut off from their parents, siblings, uncles, aunts and cousins. They said that they had just assumed they would live in their parents’ home forever.

Grace said that, although she’s skeptical about religion or even God’s existence, she took comfort when a friend told her that she shouldn’t feel bad about being confused because, “You were there for 20 years and you've only been away [for] one.”

The two sisters had always lived together until this past January, when Grace moved back to Topeka to complete her degree in studio art. Her dream is to one day work for National Geographic.

Megan still is still figuring out what she wants to do professionally.

“We both still feel pretty lost,” Megan admitted. “But we’re getting there. The journey is incredible.”

Megan, 28, has been seriously dating a young man she met last year in South Dakota, where she now lives. She never thought she’d ever have a boyfriend — much less one that she met in a casino during a St. Patrick’s Day pub-crawl.

Megan said she has learned a lesson or two from the Jews she has become close with and lived with for weeks at a time, both in Los Angeles and Montreal.

“There’s just something about the Jewish community that is so focused on ‘doing,’ ” she said. “Grace has this [saying]. She says, ‘Love them Jews.’ ”

Laughing, Grace reiterated Megan’s sentiments: “It’s not just talk — it’s doing. I love them Jews.”

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