Why Shouldn’t a Jew Play on Yom Kippur?

This Friday night, the Brewers will play the Diamondbacks, and the Phillies will play the Cardinals. Also on Friday night, Jews will be observing Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, by fasting, attending Kol Nidre services at synagogues, and praying in repentance for sins. But not necessarily all of them.

There haven’t been many Jewish superstars in American sports, so the few who have emerged have faced an oversized spotlight. Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax, the two Jewish players in the Hall of Fame, refused to play on Yom Kippur, and since then, the column I’m writing now has been written every year: will [a given Jewish player] play on Yom Kippur?*

* Rod Carew married a Jewish woman but never converted himself, despite Adam Sandler’s contention otherwise. Similarly, Jonah Keri notes that Hall of Famer Lou Boudreau’s mother was Jewish, but he didn’t identify as Jewish, while Greenberg and Koufax both did. As I’m a Reform Jew, I tend to give greater weight to self-identity than matrilineage. Moreover, there may be no Yom Kippur conflicts this year: I am not aware of any Jewish-identified players on the Diamondback, Brewer, Cardinal, or Phillie rosters, and while the Rangers have Jewish players on their roster, and the timing of Saturday’s game is as yet unannounced, it is likely that the game will take place after sundown on Saturday night.

Whether a player plays on Yom Kippur is a personal decision of faith, identity, and purpose. And though Greenberg and Koufax came to the same decision, they did so for very different reasons, as Peter Levine writes:

Greenberg’s choice appeared as critical dilemma—how to balance loyalty to parents, religion, and tradition with commitment to his American profession and his desire to fully participate in his American life… By the time Koufax chose not to play, Greenberg’s dilemma no longer existed for most American Jews. While they proudly acknowledged Sandy’s decision, it hardly signaled hope for their own American ambitions or symbolically challenged insistent anti-Semitic claims of Jewish inferiority.

Different players have come to different conclusions. Two-time All-Star Shawn Green was not raised religious, and early in his career he played on Yom Kippur. Later he decided against it, saying, “I’m not trying to be ‘the next Greenberg or Koufax,’ but I am trying to do my part as a Jewish ballplayer.” Three-time All-Star Kevin Youkilis said he wasn’t sure: “I’ve never played on Yom Kippur. Hopefully if we were playing, it would be a night game, not a day game.” Back in 2004, Gabe Kapler explained his decision to play on Yom Kippur by saying, “I am very proud of my heritage and I want to be a role model for young Jewish people. But I am not really a practicing Jew. It would be selfish to be a practicing Jew on only one day.” Ryan Braun has explained: “I am half Jewish, and I am not Orthodox… So I never grew up celebrating the holidays. I’m going to play.” (Braun declined to comment for this article.)

Green, Youkilis, and Kapler represent three positions on the religious spectrum, and Braun is a player who identifies culturally but not religiously. For many Jewish players, the greatest dilemma of all is not a matter of observance, but rather a matter of conflicting loyalties: loyalty to teammates who want to win, and loyalty to a Jewish community that wants the player to be a role model of Jewish conduct.

Speaking as a member of that wider Jewish community, Melanie Greenberg, Hank Greenberg’s granddaughter, disapproved of a compromise that Youkilis appeared to have made: “Unlike my grandfather and Sandy Koufax… [Youkilis] did not go to shul [synagogue] but, rather, suited up and sat in the dugout — perhaps a reflection of his ambivalence. He wanted to honor his religious tradition, but it seemed his heart was in the game.”

(Two years ago, Youkilis wasn’t forced to confront the dilemma, because Major League Baseball actually moved a Red Sox-Yankees game from the evening to the afternoon so as not to conflict with the beginning of Yom Kippur; Bud Selig said it was in order to benefit the many Jewish fans of both teams.)

I spoke to Philadelphia Phillies prospect and reliever Michael Schwimer, a callup this year who was left off the postseason roster, about what he would decide if he were faced with a game on Yom Kippur. He had clearly thought deeply about the choice. He gave me two explanations for his decision to play, one religious and one secular:

I’ve been given this opportunity by God, and with all the blessings, He has shown that He would want me to play. I’ve thought about it and that’s what I come up with.
I do respect the holiday, but my situation is different… At this point in my career, I’m not a go-to guy, a superstar or whatever, I’m kind of a role player right now, and I enjoy helping my team…
It would depend on the situation in baseball. If I became a starting pitcher, and I wasn’t starting that day, I probably wouldn’t show up to the field…
That’s an individual choice, and as of right now, I would say that I would play. It could change two years from now.

Judaism is a very decentralized religion, and every Jew has a slightly different relationship with the faith and all the trappings of it, both outward and inward. I think many Jews (like me), who grew up on the secular-Reform spectrum, or in mixed-faith households, understand Kapler and Braun’s points: it doesn’t exactly feel right to claim religion just one day out of the year, when that’s not exactly how we live our lives the other 364 days.

Moreover, as Peter Levine points out, the community is in a different place than it once was. Jews have been visibly successful in American society for a long time at this point, so the actions of one Jewish person are not necessarily presumed to reflect on all other American Jews. When Hank Greenberg was one of the first famous, prominent, beloved Jewish Americans — much as his contemporary Joe DiMaggio was one of the first famous, prominent, beloved Italian-Americans — his actions gave made his entire community feel stronger, prouder, more American.

By contrast, what Braun does this Friday has no effect on my ability to advance in American society. When I was growing up, I didn’t pick my favorite athletes on the basis of religion. My heroes were Hank Aaron and my dad, neither of whom are Jewish. But I also understand where Green is coming from, and I respect and honor his decision, too.

Tomorrow night, I plan to be in synagogue. But even though I’ll be thinking about atonement, I’ll probably also be thinking about fixing the Braves’ offense. I’m a baseball fan; I can’t completely turn it off. Maybe that’s my version of suiting up for the game but staying on the bench, like Youkilis. Unfortunately for Youkilis and many Jewish Red Sox fans, baseball won’t conflict with Yom Kippur this year, which may make them all the hungrier. But they waited 86 years to break the curse. It won’t be so hard for them to wait 24 hours to break the fast.




Print This Post



Alex is a writer for FanGraphs and The Hardball Times, and is a product manager for The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @alexremington.


121 Responses to “Why Shouldn’t a Jew Play on Yom Kippur?”

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
  1. Dara says:

    Jason Marquis (AZ) and Michael Schiwmer (PHI) are both Jewish.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. Ryan says:

    My religion is science, so it’s hard to understand the conflict. To each their own.

    -15 Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. Peter Gentleman says:

    Isn’t Ryan Braun Jewish? Or is there some other reason his nickname is the Hebrew Hammer?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Peter Gentleman says:

      Erp. Serves me right for commenting halfway through reading the article.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • smocon says:

      His Father was Jewish and his mother was Catholic, and although he has made statements reflecting his “proud Jewish faith”, he has never sat out or observed publicly and Jewish holidays.

      None of the players mentioned here are in the class that Koufax or Greenberg were on the field or in character of conviction, so its really a non issue.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • B N says:

      I’m pretty sure that the religion he practices is “Toweringshoticus” and he practices it 162 days out of the year, plus some extra this year. It’s observed by grabbing a large stick of wood and hitting a fast-traveling ball great distances, then hopefully running about 360 feet in a diamond.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  4. Eminor3rd says:

    One of our constitutional rights is to freedom of religious ceremony, and I think eveyrone should be given the right to choose. That being said, people that half-ass it really bother me. You either believe it or you don’t; it’s either important or it isn’t. If you profess to be a Jew and want your beliefs to be treated with a respect, you should observe the traditions. If you want to cherry-pick them, then expect no one to take your ‘beliefs’ seriously.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Eminor3rd, everyone has their own personal beliefs, and I strongly believe that they’re entitled to believe what they choose. I don’t think that there’s a binary choice between being secular and being fundamentalist.

      I am a Jew who doesn’t follow every Jewish custom; very few of my Jewish friends do. Some of them will drive to the synagogue tomorrow; some of them will turn the lights off before bed. They’re not half-assing it. They’re practicing it in a way that makes it work in their lives. I think it’s important to respect that.

      +10 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Eminor3rd says:

        It just seems fundamentally illogical to take a leap of faith at something like scripture as truth, but then also feel comfortable that you’re living ‘correctly’ by only following the parts of scripture that you can ‘work into your life.’

        Totally down with you believing what you want to believe, and there’s nothing wrong with working that around your life. I just think it’s a contradiction to call it orthodox truth and then leave it open for interpretation.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Well, that’s the point. I don’t call the Jewish scriptures “Orthodox truth.” I acknowledge much that is beautiful and valuable and personally meaningful to me in the tradition. I also acknowledge other things that are problematic.

        Very few people believe every single thing in any given organized belief system, whether it’s a party platform, an political ideology, a literary theory, a philosophical school, or an established religion. You have to engage with it from your own point of view, your own intellect, and your own judgment, and accept what you can and confront what you can’t.

        Blindly accepting orthodoxy is no more intellectually valid than blindly rejecting it. Thinking is important.

        +6 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Eminor3rd says:

        That’s a reasonable way to live, it just doesn’t seem like a pathway to truth to me. The fact that it is such an unclear concept that needs to evolve with its people makes me think that the truth lies within us already. Seems to me like trying to fit a square peg in a circle-shaped hole. Why do we need scripture in the first place if we’re just going to listen to ourselves (not a bad thing)?

        But, I can agree to disagree. Sorry to go off on a tangent.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • I believe that the pursuit of truth is a search, not a stance.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Notrotographs says:

      I believe that “my way or the highway” is a lousy way to go through life.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Tanner Scheppers says:

      Careful reflection, examination, and personal interpretation of texts that are centuries old is really half-assing it. Everyone is free to choose a religion, but then restricted in choosing how to practice it? Odd how some many sects of Judiasm (Christianity, etc.) can emerge by a picking-and-choosing of certain aspects, interpretations, translations of the Torah (Bible). But let’s dismiss all of this by not even acknowledging it as a belief.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • T says:

      You’re basing this off of traditional religious beliefs, but most people don’t understand Judaism. Judaism doesn’t believe in hell, or that someone needs to be Jewish to be “right.” Most practicing non-Orthodox Jews believe that the Torah is a series of stories and not literal as the Christian religion believes. There are many reasons that, in Judaism, one can pick and choose what you practice and follow in a way that can’t be done if you believe other religions.

      The religion itself believes that the religion can’t be half-assed, because the idea is that you practice in a way that makes you spiritually fulfilled in life. It’s not about saving your soul or concerning yourself with the afterlife, so Jews are welcome to follow their own beliefs as they wish, if that’s the way that is meaningful to them.

      Your point isn’t lost, but it’s also based on Christian/Catholic beliefs, which imply that you have to believe or you’re a sinner. Judaism doesn’t share that sentiment, ergo how they’re practiced is not the same.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Eric Feczko says:

        Right on, T. Right, on.

        Even in orthodoxy, the Tanach (the old testament) can be thought of as a series of stories from which to take lessons that you can apply to your life. It is not dogmatic. Yes, Jews are required to follow the Tanach, but what it is they follow depends on the interpretation.
        The Talmud, which is the collection of writings/sayings that Jews base their laws off has a saying that embodies this aspect of Judaism quite well: “These [words] and these [other words] are [both] the words of the living God.”

        I should add that Christianity (specifically the Catholic sect) is the only religion, that I know of, in which all non-members are automatically sinners. To my knowledge, this is not true of Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Shinto, Druze, Zoroastrianism, or Confucianism (if you want to call it a religion, I don’t).

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Steamer says:

        Well said, T.

        Also, Eric, you say that Catholics believe that all non-Catholics are automatically sinners. But they also believe that all Catholics are also automatically sinners.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • I would be hesitant to talk about what “Judaism doesn’t believe.” There are very few things that all Jews believe — for example, the Karaites go so far as to reject the Talmud.

        There is a notion of something akin to hell in Judaism, “gehenom,” though generally gehenom is not understood to be a place of eternal torment, but rather a place where sins are punished more transactionally, and is thus perhaps more akin to purgatory.

        Moreover, there are non-literalists throughout the Jewish and Christian traditions, especially the mystical traditions.

        It is true that there is the concept of the Seven Noahide laws in the Torah: these are the laws that, apparently, non-Jews are supposed to follow in order to be considered righteous. (They are, significantly, far less arduous to follow than the commandments that Jews are commanded to follow.)

        But there are a number of pluralist Christian traditions, as well. And, of course, the Unitarian Universalists come out of a Christian background but at this point are probably not specifically Christian.

        Also, Eric, one major tenet of the Druze faith is not to discuss their religion with any non-Druze. So the nature of sin in their religion is something in which none of us non-Druze can be particularly expert.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • tdotsports1 says:

        @Eric Feczko

        You apparantly haven’t read End of Faith by Sam Harris when stating the religion of Islam is more tolerant than Christianity.

        You lost me there.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Liem says:

      Human beings are not machines operating on some sort of logic based software. We, humans, cannot simply declare that we believe “X” and that because “Y” contradicts “X” we mustn’t believe “Y”. Instead, as beings governed by emotions and sentiments, as much as by reason, we have a vast array of conflicting and contradictory beliefs that shift–sometimes within a matter seconds depending on the situation. As humans develop and mature, we become aware of this conflicts and contradictions, and begin to explore their nature. Some of these conflicts and contradictions will be sorted out, some never; the inability to definitively answer consolidate our beliefs into a logical, unitary belief system is why we have fields of study like philosophy and theology. Even rational disciplines, like science, contain contradictions–how can an astrophysicist use both relativity and quantum to explain the universe? The recognition of one’s ambivalence is not weakness, it is wisdom.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. bjones says:

    Has anyone ever seen an article about the dilemma of Catholic players playing every Sunday for 6 months?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Most American Catholics do not consider the Sabbath a religiously inviolable holiday on which no work at all may be done. On the other hand, sports teams at Brigham Young University, which is owned and operated by the LDS Church, do not play on Sundays.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • MM says:

      No. Nor have we seen articles about Jews playing on the Sabbath. Yom Kippur, on the other hand, is the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, and players have skipped games due to it in the past, so it makes perfect sense to discuss it.

      As an Orthodox Jew, I wanted to tell you, Alex, that I enjoyed the piece. Well done.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • jorgath says:

      No. But I’ve seen an article about Christians of a number of denominations being reluctant to play on Easter Sunday.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  6. Morris Levin says:

    The decision for a Jewish baseball player to play or not-play on Rosh HaShanah or Yom Kippur is an incredibly personal decision, with multiple work-life elements for the player. Each one of us makes hard choices as adults about how we relate to religious traditions and how we make time for self, family, and friends, with work commitments. This is not for any of us to say what ball players should or should not do. I address some of these ideas here: http://presentense.org/magazine/jewish-team-captains

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  7. hunterfan says:

    Wouldn’t really orthodox Jews have problems with playing on Saturday, too? (I used to live in an orthodox neighborhood and remember someone explaining to me that they had to count their steps on the Sabbath.) Why is this just restricted to Yom Kippur?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Orthodox Jews would likely have problems with playing on Saturday, but there are no Orthodox Jews in the majors.

      The specific reason that it would be problematic might be open to debate, though, and MM will undoubtedly know more than I do. (One writer, Joe Bobker offers his own answers to a lot of Shabbat-related questions in a book called “Can I Play Chess on Shabbas?” The answer he offers to the title question is yes.) Recreational play is not forbidden, but professional work generally is. Moreover, playing in cleats might also be problematic — I have heard that soccer is generally viewed as something not to be played on Shabbat because soccer cleats can dig up divots, which might be seen as violating the prohibition against tilling the soil.

      This stuff gets very technical after that.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Eric Feczko says:

        Someone correct me if I’m wrong, I was raised Orthodox, but it’s been awhile since I’ve looked at these laws.

        If I recall correct, the law regarding the Sabbath is to do no work, and just rest. The problem, however, is that work is an extremely vague term that means different things to different people. In order to limit what could be counted as work, there are 39 categories of work described in the Talmud.
        The two types of categories related to baseball are likely carrying and plowing. There are loopholes to carrying, so playing baseball (which many young, orthodox, jews do on the sabbath) can be permitted according to some. I think cleats may be akin to dragging furniture across the ground, so it depends on how you interpret it. In any case, the purpose of the sabbath is to rest, so playing a professional game is kind of violating the spirit of the law, nonetheless.

        Like with other aspects of Judaism, Orthodox is not a rigid sect. Many people practice many different things depending on how they and the community they live in perceive the law.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Very true. Generally, the tradition of the local community or of your family, which is known as a “minhag,” is considered to have the absolute force of law. What is permitted often depends on whatever is taken to be the local interpretation.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • matt w says:

        I’m not Orthodox, but I always thought that what was prohibited was carrying things outdoors on the Shabbas. Then baseball players would be OK on the carrying front, since all baseball stadiums would count as indoors (since, I think, it’s generally the walls and not the roof that count).

        (There would also be no particular reason that Walter Sobchak couldn’t roll on Shabbas, though he might have some trouble getting his ball to the lanes.)

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • someanalyst says:

        Alex says: “What is permitted often depends on whatever is taken to be the local interpretation”.

        I think Habermas would say that is true of every human group.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Generally, it is prohibited to carry objects out of doors on Shabbat. You can carry objects inside, or in an “eruv” — which is basically an area which has been designated as being permissible for things to be carried.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Hah, I’m sure Habermas would. But in Jewish tradition, that principle is effectively codified.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Someanalyst says:

        Alex says: “But in Jewish tradition, that principle is effectively codified.”… Fascinating. In-built decentralization. And yet, for all the differences in practice you point out elsewhere in your comments, I think its the amount of near-universals that are amazing, given that decentralization is mandated… not unlike the amazing and vast shared heritage of the Chinese.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • I think it’s not so much in-built decentralization as it is an effective way to keep communities cohesive. So I’m guessing that it’s less about reducing the power of a central authority — since the destruction of the Temple, there really hasn’t been a central authority — as it is about making sure that individual Jewish communities remain Jewish. And the stickiness is incredible. Just witness the Beta Israel Jews of Ethiopia.

        Interpretations may differ, but the interpretive process is part of the shared cultural heritage. So, as the saying goes, between two Jews you may find three opinions.

        Plus, all our mothers like to feed us and worry a lot.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Someanalyst says:

        I had never realized my Mom was Jewish…

        Points taken – thanks. I do interpret what you’ve said to mean that the community standards (perhaps in practice if not in the code) succeed in displacing (or, at least, influencing sufficiently) the family standards where they differ. That much would be required to get the stickiness of the Beta Israel and others (Ismaili muslims come to mind, they share a similar committment to interpretive processes).

        Suddenly, I am remembering that FG is a baseball site… it’s cool of you to range so broadly. Kudos!

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  8. CircleChange11 says:

    IMO there is confusion for some due to Jewish ethnicity, culture, and religion all being thrown into one bucket.

    Based on my experiences with friends, this can be troublesome for them too. While they may not practice religion in the traditional sense, they still want to be involved in the culture/community and identify with being Jewish.

    This situation seems to want to pressure all Jewish people to act the same regardless of their involvement in the religion.

    ……………………..

    As for Christians, the act of not doing work on the Sabbath was “ended” by Jesus, Himself. IIRC, in the book of Matthew and may be referred to as the Law of Matthew 5.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Jacob says:

      I don’t want to get into a religious debate on fangraphs of all places but don’t speak for all Christianity on something that isn’t necessarily agreed upon. Just look at Chick-fil-a. He illustrated flaws in understanding not an “ending.”

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • CircleChange11 says:

        Jacob, I appreciate and understand that. I tried to denote the looseness of the term by surrounding it in quotes.

        My comment was in reference to the comment about why there’s not a bunch of backlash for Christians working on Sunday. If I recall correctly Jesus stepped in and prevented a man from being stoned to death for picking some wheat on the Sabbath. So, it was a correction on the interpretation, not inherently Jesus saying that honoring the Sabbath day was no longer important, only that the letter of the law that no one should work or be active on the Sabbath was misguided or misinterpreted.

        I did not intend to speak for all Christians, but was simply trying to explain why Christians aren’t prohibited from doing any activity on Sundays (more or less).

        I sincerely apologize if my comments were offensive or anything resembling that.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  9. carson005 says:

    Even as a non-practicing Catholic I found this article interesting. The balance between Religion – which is seen by the people who practice it as the most important thing – and sports(“just a game”) is intriguing.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  10. Wes says:

    OJ Simpson… not a Jew

    +10 Vote -1 Vote +1

  11. izzi says:

    Nice article. Nice explanation alex on the problems of cleats on shabbat. How about broadcasters? Susyn waldman (yankees broadcaster with jhon sterling) is jewish. I’m sure there are others

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • I don’t know much about Suzyn Waldman. If you’re asking whether it’s ever religiously permissible for a practicing Jew to work in a paying job on Yom Kippur, then the answer is no. Religiously, you’re basically supposed to stop doing everything that you normally do for work, and focus on the spiritual. That said, of course, many people of Jewish background, descent, ethnicity, cultural, and religious identification make their own choices.

      The main difference between broadcasters and players is that broadcasters have typically never been considered role models for the entire Jewish community. I don’t know whether Mel Allen ever broadcasted on Yom Kippur, but he was never held to the scrutiny within the Jewish community that greeted Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • matt w says:

        “If you’re asking whether it’s ever religiously permissible for a practicing Jew to work in a paying job on Yom Kippur, then the answer is no.”

        What about the rabbi and other synagogue workers, though?

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • It’s a very interesting question, and I don’t know how most synagogues do it. I have heard of an old tradition — dating back to Maimonides at least — that stated that rabbis were not supposed to be paid for doing rabbi-like things, because it seemed to demean the spirituality of what they were doing to consider it a paid transaction… so, instead, rabbis were basically paid a retainer, more or less, for the opportunity cost of their time.

        That’s a work-around and not a totally satisfying one. The basic point is, I guess, that the rabbi is in synagogue in his or her capacity as a Jew and a scholar, not in his or her capacity as a professional salaried employee.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Jacob says:

        answering from the perspective of an educated Orthodox Jewish baseball fan. The religious law you are talking about is a prohibition against doing creative work on the Sabbath (or Yom Kippur). The key detail is that creative work is only prohibited, work in a general sense is a vague word. For example writing a letter or watering plants is prohibited but walking up several flights of stairs to visit grandma is allowed.
        Rabbi’s and synagogue workers are directly paid for their work on the holiday.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  12. Josh Wexler says:

    Being proud of one’s heritage- what a primitive, thoughtless, and ugly emotional stance.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Thomas says:

      Agreed, it’s absurd to be proud of something you had no control over.

      Is Braun also proud that he was born with the freakish DNA required to hit an MLB fastball?

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  13. west says:

    Good to see Braun not caving into Religous guilt, the less religion in the world, the better.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Kenley Jansen says:

      This is the kind of attitude I expect to see a lot of on fangraphs for some reason.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • tdotsports1 says:

        Agreed.

        It’s a familiar battle isn’t it?

        The religious folk are the scouting side with things they just “believe” while the non-religious are the sabers needing proof!

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • adr3 says:

        God forbid there would be some intelligent people who can think analytically AND find a higher purpose. The anthropic principle is a pretty big deal, check it out some time!

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • CircleChange11 says:

      I’m glad that we live in an age where Braun doesn’t feel the risk of being ostracized for stating that he’s half Jewish and not a practicing member of the religion … and people being okay with that.

      I recall an interview with Tiger Woods saying that he identifies more with his mom’s heritage of being Thai (or whatever the exact ethnicity is). Wrong Tiger, you’re black. Marketing says so.

      I’m formerly religious, currently agnostic. But, a non-religious person should look at the vast amount of charity work that religions provide and wonder how that would be replaced. It probably wouldn’t. While religion creates some society issues occassionally, it also has a lot of good aspects.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  14. Breadbaker says:

    Koufax, Melanie Greenberg notwithstanding, spent Yom Kippur 1965 in his hotel room, not shul.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  15. I’m not Jewish, but to my Jewish friends and acquaintances here on Fangraphs, a belated Shana Tova,.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  16. Zzyzx says:

    I couldn’t imagine trying to play after fasting all day and it would be bizarre for me to not fast. I’m not incredibly devout and I’ve worked on Yom Kippur before, but I’ve still fasted when I did. It’s hard enough programming in that condition.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  17. Dennis says:

    2 things. 1: Sandomir at the NYT just blew it … completely missed in today’s article the fact, quoted above, that Braun considers himself “definitely Jewish”. 2. Gabe Carimi, the Chicago Bears first-round pick, has an interesting history on this issue. He is Reform, but insisted on fasting before his most important college game ever (at Wisconsin) for YK, and then IV’d up an hour before the game and played it.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • I missed Sandomir’s piece — looks like I covered a lot of the same ground. Sandomir’s point is correct, because Orthodox Jewish law considers Jewishness to be passed from mother to child: therefore, the child of a Jewish woman is Jewish, and the child of a non-Jewish woman must convert to Judaism in order to be formally considered Jewish.

      In Reform Judaism, which as I wrote above is the tradition I generally identify with, both patrilineal and matrilineal descent are recognized. So, in my mind, with Braun’s heritage and self-identification, he’s fully Jewish. But Orthodox rabbis would strictly argue that he would have to make a full religious conversion in order to be considered Jewish.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Dennis says:

        True .. but Braun isn’t Orthodox. He says so himself, specifically, in the USA Today article in which he says that he is “definitely Jewish”, and proud to be a role model for Jewish kids.

        The Orthodox are just one sect of Judaism — they’re view doesn’t control the issue.

        He self-identifies. That’s what we look for in the secular world. As in the census. And he meets the Reform patrilineal test, as you point out. Sandomir really did a disservice to ignore these 2 points.

        Plus — he will qualify to play for Israel in the World Baseball Classic in 2012. What we need is an article on what that time could be!

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • I know Eric referred to Orthodox Judaism as a “sect” above, but that isn’t quite right. The Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform, and Reconstructionist, Traditional, and other groups, are probably better thought of as lying on a continuum. All share common scriptures: Tanakh (the Torah, Prophets, and Writings); Talmud, Midrash, and so forth. They may have different interpretations of scripture, but the difference between the groups generally depends on the level of strict adherence to scripture, rather than different tenets of faith, which is what is usually meant by the word “sect.”

        The Orthodox view doesn’t control the issue, but it is the interpretation that hews closest to holy text — and therefore the interpretation that will appeal the most to those who believe in the validity of the holy text — as it comes directly from the Mishnah. In this issue as in many others, the Reform tradition has chosen to move away from the scriptural law. I often agree with their view, as I certainly do in this case, but their movement away from the text puts them at a bit of a religious disadvantage.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  18. Beep says:

    Kinsler is Jewish too, why didn’t he get a mention?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  19. Adam says:

    Here is my take, trying to leave my religious views out of it:
    when you are on a member of a team at the professional level, you have made a commitment to the players around you to give 100% to win. Taking a big game off not only sacrifices that commitment, but states to the other players that your personal agenda is more important than the team trying to win the game you are missing.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Describing one’s faith as a “personal agenda” is problematic, though, particularly in a major league clubhouse, where so many players are strongly religious. Many major league teams have chaplains — I used to live across the street from a guy who was chaplain for the Washington Nationals — and many baseball players are serious, devout Christians. So the notion that a player would say, in effect, “My God comes before my team,” would not be at all foreign to them.

      In my lifetime, I have never, ever heard a non-Jewish player criticize a Jewish teammate for his decision to sit out a game on Yom Kippur. If you have heard of such a story, can you please share it?

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • hk says:

      Just wondering, should a player observe this same commitment to his teammates above his personal agenda when his parent dies or his wife gives birth to a child?

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • I understand the point you’re making, but there is a slight difference between the situations. There is now an official paternity list and an official bereavement list, so if the player decides to leave the team due to a death in the family or to attend the birth of a child, then the team can replace them on the 25-man roster. This is not true for a religious holiday.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  20. Adam says:

    Nice post. I have similar Jewish upbringing to yours and feel pretty much the same way, everyone should make their own decisions. I’m not observant, but I do fast and observe Yom Kippur, but I’ve had to work on Yom Kippur in the past also. Maybe someone more observant has a problem with Jewish players suiting up in that he’d like to say them as role models, but that gets back to the whole debate of whether they should be held up as role models to begin with.

    ….total non sequitar, but I think Danny Valencia (pretty sure he’s Jewish) had 1 homer on Kol Nidre last year and 2 more on a Yom Kippur day game.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  21. kd bart says:

    Hell to my fellow Jews is paying full retail. :)

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  22. adohaj says:

    I don’t work, I don’t drive a car, I don’t fucking ride in a car, I don’t handle money, I don’t turn on the oven, and I sure as shit don’t fucking roll!

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  23. Ian says:

    So should I assume based on this article that Paul Goldschmidt isn’t Jewish?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  24. tdotsports1 says:

    Baseball and religion don’t mix, especially evidence based statistical analysis!

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  25. Max says:

    Ryan Braun-will he or won’t he…

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  26. A guy from PA says:

    Some guys could probably see a way to mix religion and baseball. Thomas Aquinas, Averroes, etc. all might have had the intellect to pull it off.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  27. Marc says:

    Paul Goldschmidt… C’mooooonnnn…..

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover or a person by his or her last name. Father Aloysius Schwartz wasn’t Jewish, either.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aloysius_Schwartz

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Say Hey says:

        I don’t think that is always a jewish family name. It’s simply the german word for Black. The surname Black is not necessarily connected to one particular faith.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Many Jewish family names are simply German words or compound words. Like most ethnic or national groups, Jews only started keeping track of last names in the last few centuries or so. Because Yiddish is a variant of Middle German, many Jewish names are simply German words: “Rosenberg” = “Rose mountain,” “Schwartzstein” = “Black stone,” etc.

        So there’s no etymological reason that someone with one of those last names has to be Jewish, and in Germany, many people with common German words as a last name are ethnically German, not Jewish. But in the United States, many names that fit that description have become known as stereotypically Jewish.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  28. adr3 says:

    I don’t roll on shabbos!

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  29. nathan says:

    Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  30. hk says:

    The real question is why didn’t Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez or Placido Polanco play on Kol Nidre?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Ryan Howard’s ruptured achilles is testament to the fact that he was on the field. But he certainly didn’t leave any evidence with his bat. Howard, Ibanez, and Polanco were a combined 0-10 on Friday night, which is the night of the Kol Nidre service.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  31. No mention here of Ian Kinsler of the Texas Rangers, who like Ryan Braun also has a Catholic mother but celebrated Jewish and Christian holidays as a child, according to Sports Illustrated. His Rangers played my Detroit Tigers — (I’m from Detroit, but not on the team ;) — before Yom Kippur ended. Here’s my what I wrote on my blog after being quoted in the NY Times article on the subject: http://blog.rabbijason.com/2011/10/ryan-braun-yom-kippur-debate.html

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • hk says:

      Nicely done, Rabbi. Further to one of your points, NHL players Mike Brown of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Jeff Halperin of the Washington Capitals, both of whom are Jewish, played yesterday without any fanfare. I suspect that the differences are (1) that baseball is the National pastime, (2) that Greenberg and Koufax set a precedent against which all future Jewish players are being unfairly judged and (3) when a Jewish baseball player sits out a game for Yom Kippur, it is always a post-season game that carries a lot more significance than a regular season NHL game.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Thank you, Rabbi. One of your earlier pieces was very helpful to me. As I wrote in an above comment, I don’t know whether Kinsler planned to observe this Yom Kippur or how he typically observes; I didn’t hear from the Rangers and I haven’t read anything from him explaining his habits of observance. I only wrote about players who have been outspoken about their practice.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  32. Joe B says:

    Rabbi, you know if you get 10 rabbis in a room you would get 10 different opinions (each an hour long), so you looking down on fellow Jews just because they have one parent who is not Jewish is horrible. If they are proud of their Jewish heritage isn’t that enough for you?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  33. Telo2 says:

    I’m Jewish (mother is jewish) and I like a non-jewish girl…my mother hates that. What should I do?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  34. dave says:

    Rosenberg = Red Mountain.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  35. Aryeh says:

    Someone wrote: “I think cleats may be akin to dragging furniture across the ground, so it depends on how you interpret it.” This is very close. Digging is one of the 39 avot melachot which cannot intentionally be performed on shabbat. If an unintentional act has an innevitable result, it’s equivalent to intentional. So, wearing cleats yields digging, even though the player doesn’t intend to dig the dirt (but rather to get tractions), since digging is an inevitable result.

    To my understanding, wearing cleats is the sole prohibition to playing on shabbat or yom tov, because all stadiums are surrounded by walls or fences. Of course, if Barry Bonds in his hey day were hitting “inevitable” homers over the fences, that could be an issue.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>