‘STRIKE’ UP A CONVERSATION: INFLUENCE AT THE TIP OF A HAT
We are living in scary times. Today’s political climate has fallen off the deep end and we can’t seem to wrap our heads around the question of why. From mass shootings in schools, synagogues, churches, bars, and music festivals, to hate speech rhetoric involving antisemitism, vandalism and racism, what is going on with our society? Some immediately take action and involve themselves with volunteer work to make a positive change. Some use their social media platforms to influence, and some need an escape. That escape comes in many forms such as going to the movies, reading a book, dining out, and playing and watching sports.
Most of you know about former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick and his views on social injustice, as he and many other athletes around the nation took a knee during the National Anthem to raise awareness. Since then it has become a topic of many discussions. No matter what side of the field you are on, we must find ways to put our differences aside and work together because that’s who we as Americans are at the end of the day. We are an international powerhouse and we can do a lot better than what we have shown as of late.
Part of our reason for being such a powerhouse is due to the fact that we historically have strong allies in other nations like Germany, Japan, England, and the great State of Israel.
Growing up in the Washington D.C. area as a Jewish teenager, I had the fortunate experience of being Bar-Mitzvahed in Israel. I have fond memories of my time there, from swimming (actually floating) in the Dead Sea, reciting my Torah portion at the ancient temple ruins of Katzrin, and leaving a prayer for my grandpop Meyer at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, it has left a mark on my love for being Jewish and the love I choose to spread to the people I meet. That's something we could all use a little of in our dire times.
Many moons ago Israel started what is known as the Maccabi Games. It brought together a nation of Olympians and brotherhood that lasted a lifetime through sport, commitment, and team work. Today we have an Israeli National Baseball team that according to the Isael Association of Baseball (IAB), before 2017 was ranked 41st in the world and jumped 22 spots due to their exquisite play, ranking 19th overall. Israel is not known for internationally participating in the four major sports (baseball, basketball, football, hockey), but in 2017 they played in their first World Baseball Classic after not passing the qualifier round in 2013. They would finish 6th having beaten Team Cuba, a 5th ranked world contender, 4-1, as part of their highlight reel.
The lot of this speaks volumes about kicking down the doors of adversity. Whether it be through sport or personal interaction, sometimes being the underdog inspires you to do more. The fact that this was a team that came from low rankings and under the radar to a contender is a testament we could all use to break through barriers. It’s about working together. Building something from scratch. Taking the initiative and putting it to action.
For me, the Star of David represents more than just my religion. It speaks to peace, love, innovation, gratitude, and resilience. It’s a symbol of hope and a bright future.
Where am I going with this you may ask? One year ago I bought a World Baseball Classic Team Israel hat, which has since become a great conversation starter to many random passerbys. The hat is royal blue with a white ninja-like Star of David and an “I” for Israel sitting center. The side stitched with an Israeli flag, and back with a WBC logo. It doesn’t hurt that my favorite color is blue either. This usually strikes (pun intended) up a friendly interaction with not just where I bought it, but why. I talk about my love of religion, helping others, being a part of the religious minority, and overcoming anything in the face of challenges. I like to help people, challenge people including myself to do greater in life, and donate in times of need, which in the Jewish faith we call “Tzedakah.” The hat is not just a symbol of athletics, but something that has enabled me spread the love and upbringing I have received to make sure we don’t fall into a moral coma.
The world may be scary, but in times like these, in the face of racism, violence, and antisemitism, find something that comforts you to comfort others. Be contagious.