July 13, 2024
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Congregation Beth Aaron to Host Israel’s World Baseball Classic Team

As we have just witnessed this summer when the world’s attention was glued on the 2016 Olympics in Brazil, international sports competitions create a climate of unity and goodwill among nations, or should in most instances. In promoting this agenda of sportsmanship among the nations of the world, Israel’s World Baseball Classic Team will be playing in the World Baseball Classic qualifying games on Thursday, September 22, and Friday, September 23, to determine the last spot on the World Baseball Classic to be held in March of 2017. On Thursday evening, Israel will compete against Great Britain. On Friday at noon, the Israeli team will play against either Brazil or Pakistan, depending upon the winner of the previous night. Both games will be played at Brooklyn’s MCU Park, home of the Brooklyn Cyclones.

In anticipation of this event, Congregation Beth Aaron, whose membership includes a large contingent of baseball aficionados who also happen to be great fans of anything Israel-related, will be hosting a pre-games event. On Tuesday evening, September 20, at 8:15 p.m., Nate Fish, outgoing commissioner of the Israel Association of Baseball and considered to be the King of Jewish Baseball, will address Beth Aaron and the entire Bergen County community about what it is like to represent Israel on the international sporting stage.

“In today’s political climate, it is very important for the Jewish community to proudly display our commitment to supporting Israel to the American community as well as the international community. Through supporting Israel’s baseball team at the World Baseball Classic, we can display the existence, strength and popularity of baseball in Israel and offer a non-political path through which Americans can connect to and support Israel,” commented Fish.

Fish will be joined at Beth Aaron by Margo Sugarman, secretary-general of the IAB, and players from Israel’s WBC Team who are yet to be announced. The Israeli team is comprised of Jewish minor league players and Israeli baseball players. This year the team is coached by Jerry Narron of the Texas Rangers and Cincinnati Reds, and Kevin Youkilis in addition to Nate Fish. The team is managed by Jerry Weinstein of the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Colorado Rockies.

Also joining Fish will be Beth Aaron’s own Danielle Barta, daughter of members Rena and Jerry Barta, who will be in the USA for the WBC qualifying games. Barta made aliyah in 2011, settled in Jerusalem, and recently completed a master’s from Hebrew University in School Administration and Educational Policy. For the past year, Barta has been happily engaged in one of her lifelong passions as well—the world of baseball. Barta serves as the regional director of the Israel Association of Baseball (IAB) in Jerusalem. In this capacity she is invo lved with the logistical arrangements of the team in their local games and coordinates their games with other regional teams in places including Beit Shemesh, Ra’anana, Chashmonaim, Modiin, Tel Mond, Tel Aviv, Yad Binyamin and several moshavim throughout the country. She trains the coaches and personally coaches the team. From where did this passion for baseball stem? From Teaneck, Barta assures us, where she played on TBO, the Yavneh Baseball League, and both the Ma’ayanot and Rutgers softball teams.

The Jerusalem IAB team trains weekly at Kraft Stadium or Gan Sacher. Hopefully, a more suitable venue that is being planned with the municipality of Jerusalem will be built in the near future. Practices are held once weekly throughout the year and the actual games begin after Purim on Friday afternoons whenever possible. There are four teams including players under 12 to under 21. The coaches are either paid professionals or volunteer parents. The language of play in Jerusalem alternates between Hebrew and English, depending upon the makeup of the team. In Jerusalem, 85 percent of the players are Anglos or children of olim, 5 to 7 percent are Sabras and the rest are often children of ambassadors or visiting dignitaries from countries around the world such as Beijing, Denmark and the U.S.

According to Barta, the IAB plays a crucial role in addition to providing the opportunity to play the game. “ Families who have made aliyah to Jerusalem have confessed to me that the IAB team has made their children’s adjustment to their new lives much easier in many ways. Through the team they have improved their Hebrew, made new friends and acculturated more easily.”

“One of our new national programs is Baseball for All. Held thus far in Ramle and Modiin, the program provides a one-week baseball camp for Arab and Israeli children. We use this partnership to foster relations outside of the perceived political conflict,” offers Barta.

Barta encourages the Bergen County community to attend the pre-event at Congregation Beth Aaron on Tuesday evening, September 20, at 8:15 p.m., when two tickets to the qualifying games will be raffled off in addition to baseball merchandise. She then hopes the community will cheer on the Israeli WBC team on Thursday evening, September 22, at 7 p.m. and Friday, September 23, at noon, at Brooklyn Cyclones Stadium. For tickets email [email protected] or visit www.worldbaseballclassic.com/schedule.

By Pearl Markovitz

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