Thursday, August 17, 2006

Rabbi Gellman, Cosmopolitan Jews, and Baseball

by Ken Houghton

The headaches and ear pains of the past week and a half turned out to be a full-blown sinus infection, so the long rants will have to wait. Instead—yes, I know it's two days ago, which is a decade in Internet time—I want to address Rabbi Gellman's comments on how evil it was that around 4 out of 9 Jews actually voted for Ned Lamont. (He of Wednesday's WSJ editorial page.)

As noted by Duncan, Gellman calls those who didn't vote for Lieberman "cosmopolitan Jews":
The problem with cosmopolitan Jews is that they have trouble loving other Jews. The reason for this split is you are Jewish by blood and not by belief. Judaism, which is the religion of Jews, has many wonderful beliefs but you can reject them all and still be Jewish. [emphases mine]

(Note that Gellman's definition excludes many people from being Jewish who might voluntarily convert—including the children of Jewish men who marry outside of the faith, but not, at least explicitly, children of Jewish women who do so.)

Gellman earlier used Lieberman as a touchstone:
Another consequence of this historic selection is that it now frees Jews to vote against Lieberman even though he is Jewish. His selection is the historic moment that marks full Jewish acceptance in America—not the rise of Henry Kissinger, not the movies of Steven Spielberg, not the corporate mastery of Michael Eisner.

It is left as an exercise to the reader whether those three are a list of great Jewish accomplishments. What I want to talk about is baseball. (Ah, got your attention back!) Gellman again:
I was jolted into Jewish consciousness by Koufax’s decision not to pitch on the Sabbath in the 1965 World Series.

This simply marks Gellman as being Of A Certain Age. However, there is a major problem with that sentence: Koufax did not opt not to pitch on the Sabbath.

Koufax declined to pitch Game 1 of the 1965 World Series, which was held on October 6, 1965. Wednesday, October 6. Not the Sabbath.

Rather, Yom Kippur. The Day of Atonement. The highest of High Holy Days.

There are several Jewish baseball players (and others, of course) who have eschewed working on Yom Kippur, though I would freely admit that Ken Holtzman does not have the cachet of Koufax and Greenberg presumably was before Gellman's time.

But there are Jews and there are Jews in Gellman's world, and in Gellman's world, Koufax—who pitched many a Friday night and Saturday afternoon—is a Cosmopolitan Jew. His first major league appearance in a game was on a Friday (24 June 1955), while his first win came on a Saturday (27 August 1955); Two of his four career no-hitters were thrown on Saturday (11 May 1963 and 30 June 1962).

If "[t}he problem with cosmopolitan Jews is that they have trouble loving other Jews," then surely Gellman—following in the path of his idol, Sandy Koufax—is a Cosmopolitan Jew.
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