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Team Israel is playing in the 2023 World Baseball Classic. Here’s what to watch for.



(JTA) — The fifth edition of the World Baseball Classic is just days away, as players and fans across the globe prepare for two weeks of competition beginning on Wednesday.

Jewish fans may remember that Israel took the WBC by storm in 2017, winning four straight games as an underdog and advancing to the second round before being eliminated by Japan.

Team Israel is back for the 2023 WBC, with more current MLB talent on its roster than ever. It will also face its toughest competition yet.

First held in 2006, the WBC is a quadrennial World Cup-style international tournament that has exploded in popularity in recent years. The COVID-19 pandemic postponed the event in 2021.

Ian Kinsler, Israel’s manager and a retired four-time MLB All-Star, is feeling good about his team’s chances. He played for Israel in the 2020 Olympics, and won the WBC with Team USA in 2017.

“In baseball, anything can happen,” Kinsler told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “This isn’t a five-game or seven-game series. This is one game [at a time], and if we can put together a really solid game, solid nine innings against these other teams, we have just as good a chance as anybody. I know the guys are fired up and ready to go and compete, so it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Read on for a guide to who’s starring on Team Israel, who the team will play and more on how the tournament works.

Join JTA’s Jewish Sport Report online and in Miami on March 9 for Jews on First: A Celebration at the World Baseball Classic. The panel conversation will feature ESPN’s Jeff Passan, former Team Israel player Jonathan de Marte and other Jewish baseball insiders. 

Who is playing this year, and how did they qualify?

The Dominican Republic plays Italy at Marlins Park on March 12, 2013 in Miami, Florida. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

The 2023 WBC will feature 20 teams — up from 16 in 2017 — split into four divisions (or pools) that will play in four venues: Tokyo, Phoenix, Miami and Taichung, a city of nearly 3 million in Taiwan.

Two teams from each of the four pools will advance to a single elimination bracket including quarterfinals, semifinals and a championship, all of which will be held in Miami. The first round runs from March 8 to 15, with the elimination round following immediately after. The championship game will be March 21.

Fans will not be surprised to see countries such as the United States, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela on the list — those three account for about 90% of MLB players. But there are a few less obvious countries that have qualified, including Israel.

Here are the four groups and where they will play the first round.

Pool A (Taichung): Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), Cuba, Italy, Netherlands, Panama
Pool B (Tokyo): Australia, China, Czech Republic, Japan, South Korea
Pool C: (Phoenix): Canada, Colombia, Great Britain, Mexico, United States
Pool D (Miami): Dominican Republic, Israel, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, Venezuela

The qualification rules have changed multiple times over the years. For this year’s tournament, all 16 teams from 2017 automatically qualified, including Israel. The final four teams (Great Britain, Czech Republic, Panama and Nicaragua) earned a spot through a 12-team, two-pool qualifying tournament last fall.

Who is on Team Israel?

Joc Pederson was an MLB All-Star in 2022. (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Team Israel is arguably the best embodiment of the WBC’s unique eligibility rules. To play in the WBC, a player does not need to have been born in or be an official citizen of the country he is playing for (as is the case in the Olympics). Simply being eligible for citizenship in a given country is enough.

So any person eligible for Israeli citizenship can play for Team Israel. Under Israel’s Law of Return, anyone with at least one Jewish grandparent is eligible for citizenship, as are the children and spouses of Jews.

In practical terms, these rules have meant that Israel’s baseball team, at least in international competitions, has historically been composed of mostly American Jews. Native Israelis are still adopting the sport, which lags far behind soccer and basketball there in popularity. But Israel’s success on the international stage has helped raise the game’s profile.

The difference this time around is the wealth of professional talent on Team Israel’s roster. In fact, it boasts the most major league talent it has ever had: half of the roster has MLB experience.

The best-known players on Israel’s roster are All-Star outfielder Joc Pederson, who slugged 23 home runs and 70 runs batted in last year; American-Israeli pitcher Dean Kremer, who posted a stellar 3.23 earned run average as a starting pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles in 2022; and veteran reliever Richard Bleier, who had a 3.55 ERA for the Miami Marlins last season.

Big leaguers Scott Effross and Harrison Bader, both members of the New York Yankees, had planned to play for Israel but dropped out due to injuries. Outfielder Kevin Pillar was previously rumored to be on the team but did not appear on the final roster. (Chicago White Sox ace Dylan Cease, whose father is Jewish, was also on the team’s initial list of possible players.)

Here is the full 30-man roster, with their current playing level — Triple-A being the top rung of the minor leagues, Single-A being the lowest.

Starting pitchers: Brandon Gold (Triple-A), Colton Gordon (Single-A), Dean Kremer (Baltimore Orioles), Robert Stock (Triple-A)
Relief pitchers: Jake Bird (Colorado Rockies), Richard Bleier (Boston Red Sox), Daniel Federman (Single-A), Jake Fishman (Triple-A), Andrew Gross (Double-A), Rob Kaminsky (free agent), Evan Kravetz (Double-A), Kyle Molnar (free agent), Bubby Rosman (free agent), Jacob Steinmetz (Arizona Diamondbacks organization), Joey Wagman (free agent), Zack Weiss (Los Angeles Angels), Josh Wolf (Single-A)
Outfielders: Alex Dickerson (free agent), Jakob Goldfarb (free agent), Spencer Horwitz (Triple-A), Joc Pederson (San Francisco Giants)
Infielders: Zack Gelof (Triple-A), Ty Kelly (free agent), Assaf Lowengart (College of William & Mary), Noah Mendlinger (Single-A), Matt Mervis (Triple-A), Danny Valencia (retired from MLB), Michael Wielansky (free agent)
Catchers: Ryan Lavarnway (free agent), Garrett Stubbs (Philadelphia Phillies)

Teams can also add relievers if they advance past the first round. For Israel, those extras are: Jake Kalish (Triple-A), Alex Katz (free agent), Adam Kolarek (Los Angeles Dodgers organization), Jake Miednik (Single-A) and Israeli Shlomo Lipetz.

Israel’s big-league experience extends to its coaching staff, too. Along with Kinsler as manager, Israel will have former MLB and Team Israel manager Brad Ausmus and former All-Star Kevin Youkilis in the dugout, along with veteran coach Jerry Narron.

How has Israel fared previously?

Israel team players celebrate their victory against the Netherlands after their first round game of the World Baseball Classic in Seoul, March 9, 2017. (Jung Yeon-Je/AFP via Getty Images)

This WBC will be Israel’s second. Israel was not part of the 2006 or 2009 tournaments, and though it did play in qualifying for 2013, it did not make the cut. Israel’s 2012 qualifying team included Ausmus as manager and a young Pederson in the outfield.

In 2017, Israel entered the tournament as underdogs after sweeping the qualifying tournament in September 2016. ESPN called the team “the Jamaican bobsled team of the WBC.”

With their trusty Mensch on the Bench mascot, Israel won its first four games, sweeping the first round, including a 2-1 victory over the host country of South Korea. Israel also defeated Chinese Taipei and the Netherlands, and they opened Round 2 by beating Cuba.

The proverbial Hanukkah oil seemed to run out there. Israel lost 12-2 to the Netherlands and 8-3 to Japan in the second round, ending its Cinderella run with a sixth-place tournament finish.

Catcher Ryan Lavarnway earned Pool A MVP honors, and pitcher Josh Zeid was named to the All-WBC team after the tournament.

In the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, played in the summer of 2021 because of COVID-19, Israel finished in fifth place, beating Mexico 12-5 in its lone victory.

Who is Israel playing, and what should fans expect?

Members of Team Israel react with dismay as a player from the Dominican Republic hits a game-winning single to knock Israel’s baseball team out of competition in the Tokyo Olympics, Aug. 3, 2021. (Yuichi Masuda/Getty)

Israel is in Pool D, which features some of the world’s best teams.

Here is Israel’s WBC schedule (All times EST.).

Sunday, March 12 at 12 p.m.: Israel vs. Nicaragua
Monday, March 13 at 7 p.m.: Israel vs. Puerto Rico
Tuesday, March 14 at 7 p.m.: Israel vs. Dominican Republic
Wednesday, March 15 at 12 p.m.: Israel vs. Venezuela

Before the tournament, Israel will also play two exhibition games against MLB teams, part of MLB’s effort to raise awareness for the WBC. Israel will face the Miami Marlins on March 8 and the Washington Nationals on March 9;  the late Nationals owner Ted Lerner will be honored at the game.

Once the WBC begins for Israel on March 12, the team will face many of Major League Baseball’s top players, including Francisco Lindor and Edwin Diaz for Puerto Rico; Ronald Acuña Jr. and Jose Altuve for Venezuela; and a truly stacked Dominican team that features Juan Soto, Manny Machado, Rafael Devers and reigning National League Cy Young winner Sandy Alcantara.

On paper, Israel is outmatched by its competition. But as Kinsler points out, “at the end of the day, baseball comes down to execution.” And if 2017 is any indication, opponents should never count Team Israel out.

The post Team Israel is playing in the 2023 World Baseball Classic. Here’s what to watch for. appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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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.

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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.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

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.)

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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.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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