Every September, the issue gets raised as to whether baseball players of the Jewish faith should play on the two Jewish holidays that fall in the month of September: Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
This issue has never impacted the Brewers as much as it will this year, as one of its best players, Ryan Braun, finds himself in both a division title race and race for Rookie of the Year. The Brewers had off on Rosh Hashanah on Thursday, but play the Braves in Atlanta after sundown on Friday, September 21, and a late afternoon game on Saturday, September 22.
Martin Abramowitz, of Jewish News of Greater Phoenix Online wrote:
As the baseball season heads into the home stretch and the High Holidays approach, Ryan Braun is supplying a double dose of suspense: Will the Milwaukee Brewers’ slugging third baseman become the first Jewish player to be named Rookie of the Year in either league? And does he plan to take a day off on Yom Kippur in the tradition of Hank Greenberg, Sandy Koufax and Shawn Green?
If Braun, the son of an Israeli who immigrated to the United States at the age of 7, is selected by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America as the N.L.’s top rookie, it would mark a first for Jewish players in Major League Baseball history.
Why believe Braun will take off on Yom Kippur? Perhaps it’s his connection to Greenberg: Braun lived for a time with his maternal grandfather in a house that once belonged to the legendary Detroit Tigers’ slugger.
Then there is the interview Braun gave to the Milwaukee Jewish Chronicle.
“Being Jewish is something I take great pride in,” he told the paper. “There aren’t too many Jewish athletes who have achieved success at the highest level, so it’s something I’m very proud of.”
Now, me being neither Jewish nor a religious person, I’ll be the first to admit that my opinion shouldn’t matter much (heck, our high school team had a doubleheader scheduled for Good Friday, and I would have gladly played, had the coach opted to go to his overweight, slow, clumsy, poor-hitting infielder on the bench that day)…as such, I think each ballplayer needs to make his own decision…and that fans and owners should support that decision 100%. I estimate that there may also be as many as 80,000 Jewish-Americans in the Milwaukee metro area, many of whom are children of faith that look up to Braun…so that needs to be considered as well.
Jeff Kallman wrote a great piece on the subject…I’m curious as to what other fans think.