When I was a kid growing up in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, I loved baseball. I loved everything about it from the family with three boys next door whose dad would throw us countless pop flies and grounders in their backyard every night after supper, to the awesome Johnny Bench Batter-Up my dad made for me in our yard to practice my hitting, to the Johnny Bench poster that hung on my closet door, to Johnny’s Saturday morning TV show, the Bench Bunch, baseball season brought me joy. (Ok, I had a thing for Johnny Bench!) When I wanted to play little league, I never even paused to think why not and became the first girl to play for Cherry Hill Eastern Little League. I have plenty of stories from those years as a young ball player including learning about Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax and what it meant to be a Jewish and ball player. Much has been written about Jews and baseball over the years, including just recently when the Jewish Telegraphic Association published a story about 17 Jewish baseball players to watch this season. I hope we all watch with great pride.
Jewish pride is a collective experience. Just as we may feel it for athletes or entertainers (happy 80th birthday Barbra Streisand), we also feel it for a world leader like Volodmir Zelensky, who is valiantly leading Ukraine in its defensive war against Russian attack while simultaneously rallying the world to the cause of freedom and democracy.
There are many heroes in this horrific war and the Jewish Federation system is among them. With more than five million refugees fleeing danger, more than 15,000 people already resettling in Israel, one family and expected others welcomed into our community; we and our partners are working to help as many people as possible, providing respite, food, medicine and medical care, clothing and social and psychological support.
The Greater New Haven community’s response has been heartening with generous financial and physical donations. Thank you for all you have done so far to help. Our Ukraine fund will remain open as the needs persist and we encourage your support of the Jewish Federation’s annual campaign, which is the backbone of our ability to provide for our community every day and especially at a moment’s notice, in times of crisis. Sadly, during Holocaust Remembrance Week, the New Haven Holocaust Memorial was defaced with antisemitic graffiti. This is the first time in its 40-year history that such so horrific a desecration has taken place at the memorial -- a sacred ground that holds the ashes of many who perished in the concentration camps. This heinous incident is yet another powerful reminder that hate is rising in America.
Still, we are heartened by those who came forward to alert us and to respond to this vile act. It is that type of love that is needed to combat the forces of hate and evil. In this rising environment of antisemitism and hate, we encourage all to be extra vigilant and to take pride in their Jewish heritage.
As we look forward to celebrating the holiday of Shavuot and our people’s receiving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, I wish you all a happy celebration and the enjoyment of delicious dairy delicacies. Perhaps you’ll enjoy an ice cream cone or a slice of cheesecake while watching your favorite baseball team and just maybe you’ll get to see one of the 17 Jewish players do something magical on the diamond!