(Houston Jewish Herald-Voice via JTA) — One month after lifting the World Series trophy at Minute Maid Park, Alex Bregman was at Houston’s Congregation Beth Yeshurun lifting a candle to lead the Hanukkah blessing.
On the fourth night of the holiday, the Astros star third baseman sat down with hundreds of congregants and talked about a wide range of topics, from his bar mitzvah speech to his favorite Hanukkah gifts, his not-yet kosher line of beef jerky and the potential bar mitzvah of his son.
The evening started with Bregman joining his wife, Reagan, and infant son, Knox, at the front of the sanctuary to light menorah candles with Beth Yeshurun Rabbis Sarah Fort and Steven Morgen, who ended the blessing with the words, “Play Ball!”
The special ceremony rekindled memories from Alex’s own childhood.
“We would go to Temple Albert in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and then we’d come home, invite my cousins over, light the menorah and open up presents,” Bregman said. “It was mostly just family time for us, but it was always a blast.
“My mom would cook latkes, and we still use her recipe to this day. She actually sent it to Reagan, and I think Reagan might make better latkes than my mom, but don’t tell her that.”
Bregman then shared his thoughts for more than an hour in a Q&A with Ari Alexander, a sports anchor on Houston’s KPRC TV news channel.
The program was put together by many in the congregation, including Beth Yeshurun President David Stein and Chair Lori Herzog.
“We pulled everything together in eight days,” Herzog said. “It was a Hanukkah miracle.”
Bregman shared his bar mitzvah speech from 2007, which focused on using his love of baseball to make a difference in the world.
“I hope I have been able to live up to a little bit of what that 13-year-old wanted the older version of me to be,” Bregman said. “He would probably say you still have a lot of work to do and keep going.”
At 28, Bregman, who was drafted by the Astros in the first round of the 2015 MLB draft, has already achieved more than most players: he is a two-time World Series champion and two-time All-Star.
During the Q&A, he answered questions submitted by audience members, including one about his favorite Hanukkah gift growing up.
“When I got a little bit older, it was baseball cards and a Mark McGwire baseball card. When I was younger it was definitely Legos.
“One year during Hanukkah our house was broken into and robbed. The only room they didn’t take anything from was mine because my Legos were spread out across the floor.”
Decades removed from the Legos, Bregman now is a national star and takes his opportunity as a Jewish role model seriously.
“In this position, you have a platform and you’re able to reach a lot of people,” Bregman said. “I want Jewish kids who dream about playing baseball to believe that they can play in the big leagues and live out their dream, too.”
Bregman noted he has not experienced any antisemitism in his baseball journey.
“Growing up, my mom and dad always told me to stand up for what you believe in and to speak up for it,” he said. “I want to stand up for what is right and stand up against hate.
“Personally, I think we all need a little more togetherness in the world and need to be kinder to one another.”
After the Q&A session, Stein presented the Astros star with several gifts from Beth Yeshurun, including an Astros kippah, a menorah, candles, gelt and an autographed baseball from Rabbis Brian Strauss, Steven Morgen and Sarah Fort.
Beth Yeshurun also had gifts for Knox, including a plush dreidel and a “Future Beth Yeshurun Day School Graduate” onesie. Also presented to Alex and Knox were lifetime memberships to Beth Yeshurun.
“Alex and his family truly set an example of living with Jewish values and serve as incredible role models for us all,” Stein told the JHV.
“We knew we would have a large crowd, and everyone that attended left our sanctuary with feelings of great happiness and pride.”
Beth Yeshurun also presented a $5,000 check to Bregman’s charity, Bregman Cares, which focuses on autism awareness, food insecurity and several other local causes.
“Alex fulfills the mitzvah of tzedakah and tikkun olam through his Bregman Cares foundation,” Stein said. “He is a shining star of not only the Houston community but the Jewish community, as well.”
Bregman threw out a curveball at the end of the evening, asking for the microphone and offering to take pictures with all the kids in attendance, which led to photos, autographs and plenty of high-fives.
“This was a really fun night,” Bregman said. “Hopefully, we can win a few more World Series and celebrate more Hanukkahs together.”
A version of this story originally appeared in the Jewish Herald-Voice, Houston. It is reprinted here with permission.
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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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