Wednesday, June 22, 2016

LA Rabbi Investing in Youth Basketball

Rabbi Erez Sherman kicked off Rabbi-ing this summer by providing a unique experience for his congregation. Sherman is one of the rabbis at the acclaimed Sinai Temple of Los Angeles which hosts a handful of amazing rabbis. Sinai Temple is led by Rabbi David Wolpe who is the synagogue's Max Webb Senior Rabbi and once voted the #1 Rabbi in America.. 

Sinai Temple Basketball Camp (STBC) was founded by Rabbi Sherman and religious school director Danielle Kassin. The inaugural camp attracted over 50 boys and girls in grades 3-8. It is run by head coach Jelani Bendele of Brentwood Basketball. Each day consists of skills and drills, guest speakers and tournament games. The week concluded with a championship Friday, full of contests and tournaments.

Rabbi Sherman has a long history of being an big basketball fan something that he gets from his father. Sherman has deep roots with the Syracuse Men's basketball program and was able to pull some strings. Camp guests included Terrence Roberts (All-Big East), Elimu Nelson (professional player in Israel) and Coach Howard Fisher (College of the Canyons/Head Coach 17U Team USA

When asked of Rabbi Sherman if the camp would happen again he immediately added "It was such a  success that our next week long camp will be August 8th-12th at Sinai Temple." Rabbi Sherman added "We will welcome new guest speakers to our camp from the college and professional
level. The concluding banquet for basketball camp will be a Shabbat dinner and awards ceremony."

Rabbi Sherman's camp is one of the many ways Rabbis are looking to sports to engage more members and a diverse population of youngsters and parents. To book Jewish athletes check out

Monday, June 20, 2016

Interview: Ron Rabinovitz "Letters from Jackie"

A few years ago I got introduced to a man by the name of Ron Rabinovtiz. Ron's story befriending Jackie Robinson is something everyone should hear. Here is an interview I just conducted with Ron. You can book Ron at The Great Rabbino for an event. He spoke at my synagogue and did a fabulous job. @TheGreatRabbino

1) Tell TGR a little bit about yourself?
I was born in Sheboygan, Wisconsin and am the adopted son of David and Charlotte Rabinovitz.  At the age of seven I became a Jackie Robinson fan thanks to my Dad.  My Dad was a heartfelt Brooklyn Dodgers fan who held a deep admiration for Robinson.  After meeting Jackie when I was 7, Jackie and I formed an amazing relationship which began as pen-pals and grew into phone calls and many get-togethers.  We formed a beautiful bond and became the dearest of friends, sharing our lives with one another until Jackie's death in 1972. In my teen years, I had the incredible experience of working closely with my Dad in the 1960 Presidential Primary reporting directly to John F. Kennedy.  My Dad was an attorney specializing in equal rights and was the Democratic National Committeeman from Wisconsin and later was appointed a federal judgeship  by President Kennedy.  My passion for politics continues today.

I was honored to be invited to speak twice at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY and have had interviews with The USA Today, CBS Evening News, CBS Radio, ESPN, The Week, Minneapolis StarTribune, St. Paul Pioneer Press, Chicago Sun Times, The Story with Dick Gordon on NPR, Larry King and George Washington University, just to name a few.  I am an active member of the Jackie Robinson Foundation, The Baseball Hall of Fame and The Create A Memory Foundation. In 2011, Major League Baseball Productions created the documentary, "Letters From Jackie", and The History Theatre in St. Paul did a play entitled, "The Incredible Season of Ronnie Rabinovitz".

2) When/where did you meet Jackie Robinson? What was that like?
I met Jackie in 1954 at Milwaukee County Stadium when the Dodgers were playing the Braves.  It was so exciting to finally meet my hero and I remember running up to him when he came out of the locker room and said, "Jackie, I'm Ronnie Rabinovitz do you remember me"? He said yes and my Dad said, " How could you remember with the thousands of letters you receive"? and he replied that he remembered receiving a letter from my Dad on lawyers stationary.  And he said, "Keep in touch."

3) Did you ever wonder why Jackie wanted to keep in touch?
I have often wondered why me?  We were so different.
I was White, He was Black
I was Jewish, He was Christian
I was a Kid, He an Adult
I was from a small city in the Midwest, He from a large city out East
And yet there was this bond of friendship and love.

4) What is the best Jackie story you have to share?
Probably one of the most exciting moments, it was my birthday and Jackie hit a home run and while rounding third base he waved to me as to say that was for you.  Later that evening Jackie was at my 10th birthday party dinner and to have Jackie singing happy birthday to me was beyond words.  Also when I graduated from high school he sent me a telegram.  He also took me into the Dodgers locker room and had the entire team sign a ball.

5) What is Jackie's legacy today?

As I grew up, I realized how much more than just baseball he was.  He opened doors in the sports world, the business world and worked so hard for civil rights.  They say Babe Ruth changed baseball, Jackie Robinson changed America.

6) I have heard Jackie and Hank Greenberg bonded over their situations; Jackie ever share any stories about Hammerin' Hank?
Hank Greenberg and Jackie did bond and became friends.  Hank went through so much and he realized how difficult it was for Jackie and he continually encouraged him to move forward.  Hank Aaron loved Jackie, as a young boy Jackie was his hero and the two of them became friends.

7) If Jackie were here today what do you think he'd think about the state of baseball?
I think Jackie would be disappointed with the state of baseball.  There are less than 7% of African Americans playing baseball today.  He would be disappointed in that.  In 1972 just 8 days before he passed away, he was honored at the World Series in Cincinnati and he said, "Thank you very much for this honor but I won't be happy until I see a black face as a manager in baseball and an African American as a general manager.  Ironically, the first African American manager was also a Robinson, Frank Robinson.  On  January 20, 2009, I wrote an article entitled, "I wonder what Jackie Robinson would be thinking today?" as we had just inaugurated our first African American President.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Jewish Sports Future Stars: Version 2016

Today we take a look at the future of Jewish sports. We have searched high and low for the next great Jewish/Israel sports sensations. These are the guys on the cusp of making it big on the next level.

10) Dragan Bender
Bender is NOT Jewish, but he is already an Israeli star. The 7'1 stretch four will be Maccabi Tel Aviv's latest import into the NBA. NBA Mock drafts have him somewhere in between the 3rd-8th pick overall. Being drafted that high will do a lot for Israeli basketball and mean exposure for more Israelis.

9) Max Fried
Fried was the number 7 pick of the 2012 MLB draft by the San Diego Padres. Later traded to the Atlanta Braves, Fried has yet to show the dominance he once promised mainly because he was held back by Tommy John surgery in 2014. There are still high hopes for Fried and last year was rumored as a call-up and future ace. He is currently pitching for the Rome Braves.


8) Noam Dar
If you read this blog you know I love professional wrestling. What is even better is when Israelis are the ones doing it. TGR recently posted an interview with Dar and his climb to the WWE. He is currently appearing in the Cruiserweight Championship Series but with WWE investing in independent talent, its only a matter of time before Dar is in the squared circle grappling with some of the best.

7) TJ Cline
You might notice the last name because TJ is the son of NBA Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman (formerly Cline). Cline is a late bloomer but came on very strong last season to average over 18 ppg for Richmond. He will return for his senior year but with Cline representing two of the NBA's hottest trends the Stretch Four and Mid Majors in the NBA, he has a shot.

6) Rhett Wiseman
Wiseman was drafted by the Washington Nationals in the 3rd round of the 2015 MLB draft. He is in A ball now but has shown promise. The Vanderbilt standout is only 21 and stands 6'1 200lbs.  This season he is batting .273 with 4 HRs for Hagerstown.

Daniel Braverman

5) Daniel Braverman
Maybe we are cheating on this one because Braverman was already drafted by the Chicago Bears, but he makes the list because he has yet to play a down. If you follow him on Twitter () you will quickly learn about his work habits and why he is being compared to Julian Edelman and Wes Welker. Braverman should make the Bears and has potential to make an impact immediately.

4) Zach Borenstein
Borenstein was drafted in 2011 in the 23rd round of the MLB drafted by the Angels. He has climbed his way up to AAA with the Diamondbacks and is on the verge of being called up. He is batting .289 in Reno after tearing up AA last year. Borenstein could be an impact Major League outfielder.

 TJ Leaf

3) TJ Leaf
UCLA watch out. The Jewish sports stars keep coming in. TJ Leaf a 6'10 Israeli-American baller is headed to the Bruins. Leaf originally committed to Arizona but eventually decided on UCLA. Check out more HERE. HIGH hopes for Leaf!

2) Josh Rosen
Certainly, Rosen could have been number 1 but he will have at least two more years in college. The pure Freshman showed tremendous potential for UCLA last season. Many project him to be a 1st round draft pick in the NFL someday. Great arm and star quality moxie.

1) Alex Bregman
The #2 pick of the 2015 MLB draft (only Ron Blomberg was drafted higher). He is the future star or major trade piece for the Houston Astros. We even expect him to be a late season call up. Bregman has star quality written all over him. This year he is batting .299 with 12 HRs. If Carlos Correa wasn't in front of him he would maybe be up in the bigs already.