Adam Greenberg Hank Greenberg Jewish Athletes Major League Baseball

Adam Greenberg Gets Another Chance in Majors

Hank Greenberg certainly remains the most famous and accomplished professional Jewish baseball player with that last name. However, this week Adam Greenberg was the “Greenberg” everyone was talking about.

I first learned about Adam Greenberg in an article that Ralph Woronoff sent me. An usher at Adat Shalom Synagogue in Farmington Hills, Michigan, Ralph knows I’m a baseball fan and thought I’d be interested in learning about the small club of former major leaguers who only appeared in one at-bat in the big leagues.

The article featured the story of Adam Greenberg, a Jewish ballplayer who not only appeared in just one at-bat in a professional game, but only lasted for one pitch. Greenberg was hit in the head by Marlins pitcher Valerio De Los Santos. He’s the only player to have his career end on one pitch. Called in as a pinch hitter for the Chicago Cubs on July 9, 2005, the rookie was hit in the head by a 92 MPH fastball. The hit to the head resulted in Greenberg dealing with post-concussion syndrome, dizziness, severe headaches, double vision and nausea.

After reading the article I thought about blogging about Adam Greenberg’s ordeal, but I just never got around to it. Now, Greenberg is making news because he’s getting another chance in the big leagues. Now 31, Greenberg has had some plate appearances with several minor league teams and played for the Israeli team in qualifying competition for the World Baseball Classic where he drew a walk in his only appearance, but also scored a run.

Adam Greenberg slides safely into home for Israel in the World Baseball Classic.

What makes this story so great is that Greenberg recently signed a one-day contract with the Miami Marlins and is guaranteed one at-bat in this coming Tuesday’s game against the New York Mets. An online petition drive called “One At-Bat” encouraged the Marlins to agree to give Greenberg another chance. Greenberg explained, “Life is going to throw you curve balls or [a] fastball in the back of your head. I got hit by one of them. It knocked me down. I could have stayed there. I had a choice. I could have said, ‘Poor me, and this is horrible.’ But I chose to get up and get back in the box.”

Technically speaking, Greenberg’s hit by pitch seven years ago is not considered an official “at-bat”, but rather a “plate appearance.” Greenberg hopes to change that on Tuesday with a genuine at-bat. He’ll donate his one-day salary to the Marlins Foundation, which will make a donation to the Sports Legacy Institute, an organization that advances the study, treatment and prevention of the effects of brain trauma in athletes and other at-risk groups.

Here’s the official video that started the movement to give Adam Greenberg one more chance at the plate in Major League Baseball. Of course, Hank Greenberg will always be the Greenberg we talk about when the topic is Jewish baseball legends, but Adam Greenberg’s story is legendary too.

Update: Adam Greenberg struck out swinging tonight after pinch hitting for Bryan Petersen in the bottom of the sixth inning.
(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
Bernie Madoff Celebrities Celebs Delmon Young Detroit Tigers JTA Michigan Rep. Lisa Brown Repentance Sheldon Adelson Sorry Yom Kippur

Top Yom Kippur Apologies of the Year

Yom Kippur begins on Tuesday evening next week and it will mark the 5,773rd year (give or take) that Jews will reflect on their misgivings and seek to be better in the coming year. It’s also an ideal day for apologizing for wrongdoing.

I love the list that JTA compiled of the top apologies of the year. They might not have all been heartfelt or sincere, but they were interesting nevertheless.

Of course, Detroit’s own Delmon Young made the list after apologizing for his anti-Semitic rant outside the Detroit Tigers’ Manhattan hotel this past spring. I think we’re still waiting for apologies from Michigan Speaker of the House Jase Bolger for banning Rep. Lisa Brown from speaking on the floor of the Michigan House for using the word “vagina” a few months ago. And an apology might be appropriate from the owner of a clothing store in India that goes by the name “Hitler”.

U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.)

U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.)

For skinny dipping in the Sea of Galilee during a congressional visit to Israel.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee

 The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee

For circulating unsubstantiated claims about casino magnate and Republican Party donor Sheldon Adelson.

Peter Madoff

Peter Madoff, brother of Bernie Madoff

For helping deceive investors in his brother Bernie’s Ponzi scheme.

Yeshivah College of Melbourne, Australia

Yeshivah College of Melbourne, Australia

For not doing enough to stop sexual abuse in its midst.

Detroit Tigers outfielder and DH Delmon Young

 Detroit Tigers outfielder Delmon Young

For launching into an anti-Semitic tirade at a New York hotel.

Nancy Brinker, founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure

 Nancy Brinker, founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure

For initially suspending funding for Planned Parenthood.

Andrew Adler, former owner and publisher of the Atlanta Jewish Times

 Andrew Adler, former owner and publisher of the Atlanta Jewish Times

For an opinion column in which he counted President Obama’s assassination as among Israel’s options in heading off a nuclear Iran.

The East End Madrassah, a Toronto Islamic school

The East End Madrassah, a Toronto Islamic school

For teaching students about “crafty” and “treacherous” Jews.

Tehmina Adaya, owner of the Hotel Shangri-La in Santa Monica, Calif.

Tehmina Adaya, owner of the Hotel Shangri-La in Santa Monica, Calif.

For not being quicker to address charges that her hotel had discriminated against pro-Israel activists.

Texas state Rep. Larry Taylor

 Tehmina Adaya, owner of the Hotel Shangri-La in Santa Monica, Calif.

For saying “don’t try to Jew them down” during a public hearing.

Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone

Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone

For being disparaging in a meeting with Jews.

Wodka Vodka

Wodka Vodka

For putting up billboards with the slogan “Christmas Quality, Hanukkah Pricing.”

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
Judaism and Technology Miami Rosh Hashanah Synagogues Technology Texting Twitter Yom Kippur

Texting Teshuva in Shul: Tech Savvy or Tacky?

There was undoubtedly more texting in shul this Rosh Hashanah than in past years. In most liberal congregations texting was likely done as discreetly as possible; often with a cellphone hidden low in one’s lap. In some congregations the texting may have been done more overtly outside in the synagogue lobby or perhaps outside the synagogue building. The younger generation is much more cavalier about using cellphones in the service on one of the holiest days on the Jewish calendar.

But as NY Times Miami bureau chief Lizette Alvarez wrote in a recent article (For Young Jews, a Service Says, ‘Please, Do Text’), in some congregations texting was a rabbinically sanctioned activity on Rosh Hashanah. Some rabbis, as Alvarez reports, integrated texting into the service. In many congregations this new form of interaction during services was a first.

Alvarez explains that in a Miami Beach Reform congregation, congregants looked up at a big white screen and read the directions: “Pray. Write. Text.” For 90 minutes the participants in the pews used their texting thumbs to send out regrets, goals, musings and blissful thoughts for the rest of the congregation to see.

The rabbi, Amy Morrison, encouraged her parishioners rather than scolding them for texting. She said, “Take those phones out” and asked them what they needed to let go of to be “fully present?”

“For young Jews in America, we are a demographic different from our parents and our grandparents,” said Rabbi Jessica Zimmerman, the director of congregational engagement for Synagogue 3000, an organization that seeks to re-energize synagogue life and re-engage young professionals. “We’re more educated, we move many more times and live further away from our family of origin, and we are single much longer, for years after college, which was never the case before.”

Rabbi Morrison explained the idea to encourage texting during the High Holy Day services at her shul: “For my generation, the generation that the service is for, prayer is not something you can find in your own life until someone helps you wrestle with it… So, I recommended texting.”

The young rabbi grew up in a Conservative synagogue, where the rabbi would have scoffed at the notion of a texting during Rosh Hashanah service. “Services there aren’t as thought-provoking or honest or sharing, which is what I liked here,” she explained about the synagogue of her childhood.

While progressive congregations like Morrison’s will continue to experiment with pushing the envelope and using new technology like texting and tweeting during the services, many other congregation will continue to lean toward formal decorum arguing that sending text messages on one’s phone for the congregation to see detracts from the respect the synagogue, Torah and services demand.

One congregant at Morrison’s Reform temple enjoyed the texting aspect of the services. She recalled, “I paid attention the whole time; that’s a problem with me, tuning it out.”

We shall see if the communal texting culture catches on in more synagogues or if rabbis will continue to ask congregants to remember to turn off their cellphones. As text messaging becomes even more popular and and a reflexive act for the younger generation, it is possible that a texting congregation during High Holy Day services will become less of an oddity.

Tech savvy or tacky? Which will win out?

Cross-posted to the Jewish Techs blog at The Jewish Week.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
Baseball Gabe Kapler Hank Greenberg Jason Marquis Kevin Youkilis Major League Baseball Sandy Koufax Scott Feldman Shawn Green Yom Kippur

White Sox Move Yom Kippur Game for Fans, Youkilis

As an avid Detroit Tigers fan it’s difficult to root for Kevin Youkilis and the Chicago White Sox. However, the team’s recent decision to reschedule an upcoming night game to earlier that afternoon out of respect for Yom Kippur is worthy of praise.

I’ve written numerous times on this blog about Jewish Major League Baseball players whose decisions of whether or not to play on Yom Kippur (known as “the Sandy Koufax question”) become fodder for debate and discussion. Kevin Youkilis explained his feelings on playing on the Jewish day of atonement in a recent article in Yahoo! Sports after his team rearranged its schedule to accommodate Jewish fans as well as their star third baseman.

“You have to stick with your beliefs,” Youkilis said. “You can’t worry about people who aren’t influential in your life who say things or tell you you’re wrong. I know Shawn Green had a tough time with it. It just depends upon the community. In Boston they probably don’t even care. They’d want you to play.”

The White Sox did something earlier this week that many baseball teams had previously claimed was impossible based on the rigidity of Major League Baseball over its schedule. (The Yankees and Red Sox moved a game from evening to afternoon to accommodate the Jewish fans of both teams in 2009.) The White Sox changed the start time for its game on Tuesday, September 25 game against the Cleveland Indians from 7:10 to 1:10, citing courtesy for the team’s Jewish fans who will observe Yom Kippur beginning at nightfall. Even if the stated reason was for the fans, the team’s decision was a relief to Youkilis who no longer had to make the difficult decision on whether he would play that night. Last year, Youkilis responded to “the Sandy Koufax question” in the Jewish Journal by saying that there are “plenty of people with strong feelings on each side. It wouldn’t be an easy choice.”

It seems like Jewish baseball players face the Yom Kippur dilemma each year, but it’s only the more popular players in predominantly Jewish cities who are discussed. In recent years in addition to Youkilis, Ryan Braun (who’s father is Jewish and is known as the “Hebrew Hammer”), Gabe Kapler and Shawn Green have responded to the Yom Kippur question by sitting out games in some years and playing in other years. Yom Kippur doesn’t pose the same dilemma to Jewish pitchers like Scott Feldman of the Texas Rangers or Jason Marquis of the San Diego Padres who can be rescheduled in the starting rotation or simply not used in relief during that particular game.

Interestingly, this dilemma for baseball players has been named “The Sandy Koufax question” after Koufax sat the first game of the World Series in 1965. However, Koufax pitched in the second game instead so it wasn’t the same sacrifice as Hank Greenberg who refused to play baseball on Yom Kippur in 1934, even though the Detroit Tigers were in the middle of a pennant race.

A funny story is often told about that Dodgers World Series game which had Don Drysdale pitching in Game 1 in place of Koufax. Drysdale gave up seven runs in 2 2/3 innings and when the manager came to pull him from the game, Drysdale deadpanned, “I bet right now you wish I was Jewish, too!” Koufax went on to lose Game 2.

Some baseball players view the decision to play or not on Yom Kippur to be a personal choice, but not everyone agrees. In an article in the Forward a couple years ago Hank Greenberg’s granddaughter Melanie (Former MLB Deputy Commissioner Steve Greenberg’s daughter) wrote, “Heavy though the burden may be, I believe that Jewish players share the same obligation as my grandfather — to serve as representatives for their people. Admittedly, he lived in different times. Jewish athletes, however, still have the ability to affect their communities.”

At least this year the White Sox helped their star out and he didn’t have to make a decision. Youkilis has said that he will fast and attend synagogue this Yom Kippur.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
9/11 Moshe Tutnauer Peter O'Rourke Rosh Hashanah September 11 Unetane Tokef West Bloomfield Yom Kippur

Officer Patrick O’Rourke – Who Shall Live? Who Shall Die?

Wow! It’s been 11 years since that horrific, horrific day. On that early Tuesday morning in September 2001, cantors around the world were already rehearsing their rendition of the U’netane Tokef prayer in preparation for the upcoming High Holy Days.

All shall pass before You like members of the flock. Like a shepherd pasturing his flock, making sheep pass under his staff, so shall You cause to pass, count, calculate, and consider the soul of all the living; and You shall apportion the fixed needs of all Your creatures and inscribe their verdict. On Rosh Hashanah will be inscribed and on Yom Kippur will be sealed how many will pass from the earth and how many will be created; who will live and who will die; who will die at his predestined time and who before his time; who by water and who by fire…

“Who shall live and who shall die? Who before his time?” Those words were echoing in my head yesterday morning as I read the news alert that West Bloomfield Police Officer Patrick O’Rourke had been shot dead by Ricky Coley, a man who barricaded himself in his West Bloomfield home (and later committed suicide). Officer O’Rourke was only 39-years-old and left behind his wife and four young children. His colleagues in the West Bloomfield Police called him “the most-liked person in this building.”

I’m aware that police officers get shot and killed in the line of duty and they go into the force knowing that is a reality. But it’s never happened here in West Bloomfield. I grew up here. I work here. This occurred less than four miles from my home. Tragic just doesn’t seem like a strong enough word for this.

To honor the memory of Officer O’Rourke and to remember those who perished on 9/11 in New York City, Washington D.C., and on United Airlines Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania I offer this beautiful and moving U’netane Tokef inspired poem written by my late teacher Rabbi Moshe Tutnauer, of blessed memory:

I used to think that the U’netaneh Tokef was written
either by someone old, pondering imminent death,
or by someone who had endured plagues and earthquakes.

And then I watched a plane carrying human beings
Being crashed into a building full of other human beings
And as I saw the ball of fire, and the people jumping, and the smoke,
I began to ponder those awesome words:
         Who will live and who will die
         Who in due time and who all too suddenly
         Who by fire, and who by water
         Who by the sword, and who by wild beasts (humans!)
         Who by starvation, and who by dehydration
         Who by suffocation, and by hurtling objects

I knew that even the angels were confounded
No still small voice could be heard
Only the deafening sound
of fuel exploding,
of buildings imploding,
of humans screaming

So scholars may argue whether U’netaneh Tokef
Was written in the 5th or 10th century
But I know that it was really written last week.

Now the original author had faith –
Perhaps the decree’s bitterness
May be sweetened
By turning into oneself and examining one’s deeds
By turning to God and seeking Divine inspiration
By turning to others and acting justly toward them.

May each of us
Find the way
To cleanse our souls of bitterness
To raise our spirits to Godliness
To open our hands to righteousness

Touch the ones you love
Hear the Shofar’s voice
Taste the apples and honey
And try to make this a sweeter year.

May the memory of Officer Peter O’Rourke be a blessing to his family and may we continue to pray for the souls of the 2,977 victims of the 9/11 attack.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
Book Review Books High Holy Days Inspirational Mitch Albom Rosh Hashanah Spirituality The Timekeeper Time Yom Kippur

We All Try to Beat Time – Mitch Albom’s "The Time Keeper" (Review)

“Tuedays With Morrie” Author Reminds Us To Live Life and Worry Less About Keeping Time

I have a feeling that author Mitch Albom timed the release of his new book, “The Time Keeper,” to coincide with the Jewish High Holy Days. This work of fiction forces us to consider the meaning of time and why it is not good for humans to try to control it. Albom’s message, interwoven in a beautiful story, will likely bring much food for thought to Jewish worshipers during this contemplative season, known as the Days of Awe.

Albom is a self-proclaimed secular Jew, as he articulated in both “Tuesdays With Morrie” and “Have a Little Faith”; however, he cannot hide the godliness that permeates this novel. In the acknowledgement section of his latest work Albom writes, “First, thanks to God. I do nothing without His grace.” There can be no question that “The Time Keeper” comes from a place of deep spirituality, if not an overt association with institutional religion. Issues of free will, reward and punishment, divine intervention and profound prayer inform Albom’s characters throughout.

“The Time Keeper” opens by looking at the difference between humans and animals. While animals seem to just live their lives without considering or even knowing about the concept of time, we humans are always thinking about time. From generation to generation, we count the seconds, minutes, hours, days and years of our lives. While we have no control over time, we still wish to either speed it up or slow it down. (Spoiler alert…)

During the Days of Awe, Mitch Albom will talk about “The Time Keeper” at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles where his childhood Jewish day school classmate and friend David Wolpe serves as rabbi.

Albom has brilliantly constructed three characters who demonstrate how humans seek to control time. Creatively named Dor (Hebrew for “generation”), Albom’s first character lives 5,000 years ago and was the first human to measure time. Counting months and hours and breaths, Dor neurotically seeks to keep time while all those around him try to conquer God. It was during his generation that the Tower of Babel is constructed, a project conceived of by Dor’s best friend Nim. Dor tries to convince his childhood friend that conquering time was a more noble effort than building a corporeal structure to the sky to overtake the incorporeal, but Nim couldn’t understand that and banishes Dor to a life of exile.

When Dor’s wife falls deathly ill he runs rather than returning her from exile to get help. In his deep regret he wishes he could have stopped time. As a punishment for trying to gain human control over time he is sentenced to eternal life as Father Time in a cave where he hears the cries of all humanity throughout the generations. Their cries are about time and their desire to dominate it.

Dor wants to stop time, while Albom’s other two protagonists want it to either speed up or slow down time based on life’s circumstances. Sarah Lemon is an overweight, high school senior with low self-esteem, anxiety issues and a crush on an out-of-her-league boy. She is a bright student who gets perfect grades and has a promising future, but her teenage social struggles make her want time to end by committing suicide.

On the other side of the spectrum is billionaire hedge fund tycoon Victor Delamonte, who after a successful life and a long marriage is on dialysis to help him live but a few more months. Victor, however, will do anything to extend his life and buy himself more time on earth. He’s even willing to stop dialysis if it means having his lifeless body frozen in a Cryonics lab to return generations later when there’s a cure for his cancer and he can return to the life of wealth and luxury he has come to know. Sarah wants less time. Victor wants more time. And Dor is charged with the mission of helping them both realize that control over time is more of a curse than a blessing. As Dor himself learned, controlling time is no gift.

Rather than preach to us that we should end our futile preoccupation with time, Albom constructs a wonderful fantasy with characters both human and mythical to drive that point home. It is a skill that Albom has demonstrated before by offering wisdom through his dying professor (“Tuesdays With Morrie”) and his dying childhood rabbi (“Have a Little Faith”).

Dor delivers wise counsel after spending thousands of years in a “purgatory” of eternal life. “Everything man does today to be efficient, to fill the hour? It does not satisfy. It only makes him hungry to do more. Man wants to own his existence. But no one owns time,” Dor counsels Victor.

Albom’s Victor shows us that no matter how much money one has, it is impossible to beat time. After all, billionaires have the same 24 hours in a day that the homeless have. Victor has more wealth than he could ever spend, but he craves for an eternity. Again, the author has fun with his character’s names. Even the “Victors” have to play the cards they’re dealt and Sarah Lemon shows us that no matter how challenging life gets, you need to use the time you have to make lemonade from those “lemons.” [Note: Albom told me that he didn’t make these character associations intentionally.]

What is important is for us to make the best use of the time that we have. We are unable to stop time and we are unable to speed it up. However, we can seek to do the best we can in the amount of time we are given by God. All of us are time keepers. All around us, we have clocks and watches and calendars. Six millennia ago, Dor sought the key to keep track of time. Today, we are slaves to it. Time is kept on our wrists and computer screens, on our cell phones and on the walls of our home, but Mitch Albom teaches us that being a time keeper is not the way to live. Through Dor’s wisdom he warns, “There is a reason God limits our days … To make each one precious.” Perhaps that is the best message for the Jewish season of introspection.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
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(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |

Alexander Gould Goes From Weeds to Israel

Last night Showtime aired the 100th episode of its long-running hit Weeds. However, one of the show’s most popular actors wasn’t watching it when it was first shown since it was the middle of the night for him.

Alexander Gould plays “Shane Botwin” on Weeds, a show about a middle class family from California that gets into the marijuana growing and distribution business after the head of the family suddenly dies. Over the course of the past eight seasons Gould’s character has transitioned from a little boy to a young man before our eyes. He has shot a mountain lion, made a terrorist video in which he beheads a little girl, bit his opponent’s foot in a karate match, murdered his mother’s Mexican nemesis, lost his virginity, become a police officer, and stolen a gang banger’s sports car. But that was just acting.

Alexander Gould (far right) moves into Beit Nativ with his USY peers.

Now, he’s putting his acting career aside for the year and is adjusting to life in Israel. While fans of the show watched last night as the Botwins returned to their roots in Agrestic, Alex Gould was sleeping in his bed at Beit Nativ in Jerusalem.

Gould is a participant on United Synagogue Youth (USY)’s gap year program called Nativ (Hebrew for “path”). Like other 18-year-old Nativers, Gould is studying in Jerusalem and will volunteer in other areas of Israel. He’s currently studying at Hebrew University on Mt. Scopus (Nativers choose between the Hebrew U. track, an Ulpan — intensive Hebrew language class — or the Conservative Yeshiva). Early next year, he’ll begin his community service project in Yerucham. Following Nativ, Gould will begin college at Clark University in the fall of 2013.

Alexander Gould (far left) and fellow Nativers before Shabbat services.

Gould made his acting debut at the age of six and gained worldwide acclaim as the voice of Nemo, the title character of Disney/Pixar’s Finding Nemo animation. Before Weeds, Gould had several guest starring roles on television series like Ally McBeal, Malcolm in the Middle, Law and Order: SVU, Supernatural, and Pushing Daisies. He also was the voice of Bambi in the movie Bambi II and had a voice over role in Curious George. Gould has won awards for his voice over work and for his supporting role in Weeds. In 2007, he won Best Young Ensemble in a Feature Film for his role in How to Eat Fried Worms.

While his co-star Justin Kirk has more of a Jewish themed role and has offered more Hebrew phrases during Weeds’ eight seasons on Showtime, Gould screamed the first words of the “Shema Yisrael” during a karate match in an early episode. After spending the year in Israel and learning Hebrew, perhaps Gould will take on future roles in which Hebrew is required.

Despite his busy acting and voice over career, Gould was an active member of USY, the Conservative Movement’s youth group, during his high school years. That involvement led him to apply for the Nativ program. Rabbis and youth advisers who got to know Gould through his USY participation in the Far West region during the past few years report that he’s a great, humble kid with a lot of friends and is very funny. For Gould, spending the year on Nativ with his Jewish peers is a welcome change from being home schooled as a Hollywood actor.

While Weeds might not have caught on in Israel, it’s still likely that Alexander Gould will be recognized in Jerusalem this year. Fortunately for his teachers at Hebrew University, Gould doesn’t have the R-rated potty mouth of his TV persona.

Alice Cooper Autographs Baseball Football Jewish Theological Seminary Rabbi Rabbis Sports

Rabbi Autographs on Sports Balls

While I was in rabbinical school at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, I decided that I wanted a keepsake to remember the esteemed faculty. If it were high school, I suppose I could have asked my teachers to sign my yearbook. Since there were no year books around, I searched the house for something else to get autographed. A brand-new football caught my eye and with a white marker I began making my way around the Seminary in search of faculty members to put their John Hancock on my football. They were trilled to comply.

Prominent JTS faculty members like Chancellor Ismar Schorsch, Neil Gillman, Bill Lebeau, Burt Visotzky, Anne Lerner, Michael Greenbaum, Barry Holtz,  Aryeh Davidson, Stephen Geller, Robbie Harris, Raymond Scheindlin, Joe Lukinsky (of blessed memory), and Eduardo Rauch (of blessed memory). I placed the autographed football in a glass display case. When Purim rolled around I put it on display at the annual Purim Seudah with a note challenging, “Guess which professional team autographed this football.”

Little did I know that I didn’t have an original idea there. It turns out that a guy named Daniel Harris has been collecting autographs from famous rabbis for many decades. A recent article in Tablet, introduces us to Harris, who is the associate principal of Ida Crown Jewish Academy in Chicago. Harris explains that over time he outgrew his childhood role models and “realized he had exchanged players of physical brilliance for legends of spiritual grandeur—and that those were the heroes he wanted to recognize.” He goes so far as to claim that he’d take a baseball signed by a great rabbinic leader over one autographed by the great Babe Ruth.

Harris’s collection of rabbinicly autographed baseballs has grown recently and now includes ten baseballs from the leading Orthodox rabbis of our time including Rav Gedaliah Schwartz and Rabbi Berel Wein. Harris traded his signed Kenny Holtzman baseball to Rabbi Wein for his signature.

Autographed baseballs by prominent rabbis from Daniel Harris’s collection

Harris explained why he uses baseballs to collect these esteemed rabbis’ autographs. “Both baseball and, in a greater sense, Talmud, are full of nuance and great detail. Every time you enjoy learning a piece of Talmud you can come away with something new, as in baseball, where there is always some new play or game situation that you have never seen.”

I’m not looking to begin a collection of autographed baseballs from respected Seminary luminaries and well-known Conservative rabbis any time soon. However, I might just begin to collect personalized autographed baseballs from rock stars. Here’s my first in the collection from Vincent Damon Furnier, better known as Alice Cooper:

Alice Cooper autographed baseball

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |