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The Jewish Sport Report: Talking Jews in baseball with ESPN’s Jeff Passan



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Good afternoon and happy Spring Training Opening Day! 

OK, so the games don’t count, but Major League Baseball teams are playing today, and I, for one, am excited. So is Jeff Passan, ESPN’s senior MLB insider, who I spoke to this week as he traversed the Phoenix area visiting a number of big league camps.

Read on for our conversation — and sign up for our event Jews on First: A Celebration at the World Baseball Classic to see Jeff, alongside other exciting Jewish baseball experts and personalities, talk baseball and the WBC.

Jeff Passan on Hebrew school, Sandy Koufax and Jewish baseball history

Jeff Passan at his bar mitzvah, Oct. 9, 1993. (Courtesy of Passan)

Since joining ESPN in 2019, Jeff Passan has quickly become one of the most prominent and trusted baseball reporters in the industry. He constantly breaks news to his million Twitter followers and shows up across ESPN’s TV, radio and podcast shows.

But like many of us, Passan also grew up going to Hebrew School and looking up to Sandy Koufax.

So when it came time to interview Koufax for his book on pitchers and Tommy John surgery — which itself was an arduous process, as Koufax rarely grants interviews — Passan was, understandably, nervous.

“I was in awe the whole time,” he told me. “Generally speaking, when I’m talking to people, I’ll call them by their first name. He was Mr. Koufax.”

Passan also told me about his Jewish upbringing, finding camaraderie with fellow Jewish reporters and players and why he thinks Jews love baseball so much.

Here’s the story.

Halftime report

MACCA-SEE YOU LATER. The Yeshiva University men’s basketball team lost in the Skyline Conference semifinals on Thursday, bringing the Maccabees’ season to an end. The club had forfeited a crucial matchup last Saturday, citing inadequate warmup time after Shabbat. The no contest cost Y.U. a shot at the top seed.

SPEAKING OF FORFEITS. The Miami Catholic school team that had brawled with a team from a nearby Jewish school forfeited its semifinal game in a state soccer tournament last weekend. The school’s athletic director confirmed the decision was made due to the brawl, but he didn’t offer further details about the incident.

A SECOND CHANCE. Meyers Leonard, the NBA player whose career took a turn in 2020 after he used an antisemitic slur online, has signed a contract with the Milwaukee Bucks. Leonard has apologized numerous times — including in a recent interview with Jewish ESPN reporter Jeremy Schaap — and has engaged with the Jewish community to make amends. The Bucks cited Leonard’s Jewish community work when they signed him this week.

BEST OF THE BEST. MLB Network has been slowly releasing its list of the top 100 players entering the 2023 season, and Max Fried (a fitting number 36) and Alex Bregman (24) both ranked fairly high. Both players also improved over their 2022 ranking (Fried was 48th; Bregman was 29th).

BOBBLE BABY BOBBLE. The National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum in Milwaukee — whose Jewish founder I wrote about in 2021 — has announced its newest bobble: Jewish Olympian Jason Brown.

IN OTHER JASON NEWS. Two-time All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis officially announced his retirement this week. Kipnis is now a practicing Roman Catholic, but his father is Jewish and he reportedly grew up self-identifying as Jewish. Kipnis once celebrated a home run with a “Hava Nagila” dugout dance.

Jews in sports to watch this weekend


Zach Hyman and the second-place Edmonton Oilers face off against the last-place Columbus Blue Jackets tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. ET. On Sunday at 5 p.m. ET, Adam Fox and the New York Rangers host the LA Kings, while Jakob Chychrun and the Arizona Coyotes play the Nashville Predators at 7 p.m. ET. Chychrun is expected to be traded imminently.


Deni Avdija and the Washington Wizards host the New York Knicks tonight at 7 p.m. ET and face the Chicago Bulls Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET. Over in the G League, Ryan Turell’s Motor City Cruise, who have won five straight, play the Delaware Blue Coats tonight at 7 p.m. ET and the Raptors 905 Saturday at 7 p.m. ET.


Spring Training games begin today — here is the full league schedule. The Boston Red Sox and new reliever Richard Bleier hosted Northeastern University for their annual exhibition game at 1:05 p.m. ET today. There are 17 games tomorrow (yes, there are only 30 teams, Spring Training is weird). Baseball is back!

A yeshiva wrestling tournament returns 

The Henry Wittenberg Invitational Wrestling Tournament was held last weekend at the Frisch School in Paramus, New Jersey. (Courtesy Yeshiva Wrestling Association)

The Henry Wittenberg Invitational Wrestling Tournament, an annual competition sponsored by the Yeshiva Wrestling Association, returned for its 26th year last weekend after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic.

Hosted by the Frisch School in Paramus, New Jersey, the competition featured 120 wrestlers from a dozen schools in New York, New Jersey, Boston, Atlanta and Chicago. The host school won the championship.

The post The Jewish Sport Report: Talking Jews in baseball with ESPN’s Jeff Passan 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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Local News

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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