Israel Goes to the World Baseball Classic (Part 2)
By David Leichman and Rabbi Miri Gold
Continued from Part 1…
Team Israel met Israel’s National Team the day before Rosh Hashana. Thanks to a local Jewish couple, everyone celebrated together with a festive meal on the eve of the holiday. David spoke about the meaning of Rosh Hashana and the symbols of the holiday. Many of the players and staff commented on how meaningful and special it was to be together and to hear the Shofar.
The following day, some of the team members attended services at Temple Beth Am in Jupiter and on the second day, two Team Israel players, Israeli Alon Leichman and American Nate Fish (who will be the head coach of the American Maccabiah Baseball Team in the summer of 2013), spoke in the synagogue to Hebrew school students. Through the local JCC, a baseball clinic was led by Israel’s National Team later in the week.
Adam Greenberg, who recently received a great deal of press coverage immediately after the final game, when the Miami Marlins offered him a “One At-Bat” contract, had this to say about his experience with Team Israel: “It was pretty cool, going out there, wearing ‘Israel’ across my chest, and I know everyone in the locker room felt the same. It was a special day, a special moment.” Adam and his wife Lindsay are planning to visit us in Israel when they make their first trip this coming January. In addition, there are three or four other Team Israel ballplayers coming to Israel on Birthright this winter.
As a result of David’s involvement from the beginning, we were asked to help host Brad Ausmus and his wife Liz on their first trip to Israel this past May. As we pulled into the parking lot of a Dead Sea spa, Miri’s phone rang. It was Anat Hoffman, director of IRAC, calling to say that the seven year-old “Miri Gold” Supreme Court case was finally being resolved. After appropriate explanations, we shared our joy and excitement, and celebrated with Brad and Liz.
For the two of us, it is a true privilege to be involved with this still unfolding story. As Team Israel doctor Glenn Copeland so beautifully summed it up, when he told the ballplayers in the clubhouse prior to the first game, although he has been in baseball 32 years as the Toronto Blue Jays’ team physician, “its as emotional as hell because there’s never been a night in baseball that I’ve been associated with that I’m more excited and more proud to be a part of. You’re the best and greatest Jewish baseball team that’s ever played in the world, and every Jew is walking a lot prouder.”
After Team Israel beat South Africa 7-3 and Spain 7-2, they lost a heartbreaker to Spain In the bottom of the tenth inning of the finals, 9-7. Many of the ballplayers and coaches expressed that it was the most painful loss they ever experienced. In spite of that, the other goals were reached and surpassed way beyond any of our expectations.
After returning to Israel, Peter Kurz, Secretary of the Israel Association of Baseball, wrote to all the players, coaches and staff: “This team will certainly go down in history as having represented the country of Israel and the Jewish People with incredible honor, admiration and respect.”
Rabbi Miri Gold is the rabbi of Kehilat Birkat Shalom on Kibbutz Gezer in the Gezer region of Israel. Her husband, David Leichman, is ARZA’s Mifgash Coordinator, working with congregations from the US and Israel to facilitate opportunities for Reform Jews to meet each other.