The Youkilis family name has an unusual history from his entry on Wikipedia. His Jewish great-great-great-grandfather, a native of 19th-century Romania, moved to Greece at the age of 16 to avoid conscription at the hands of the notoriously anti-Semitic Cossacks. He became homesick, however, and returned to Romania after a couple of years, although he changed his surname from “Weiner” to the Greek name, “Youkilis”, to avoid army and jail. Some researchers make use of distinctive surnames to identify distinct ethnic populations, the Youkilis surename was definitely a curveball for Kevin.
“People have come up to me and starting speaking Greek to me and I don’t speak it,” Youkilis said. “I feel bad. Ever since I was in Lowell (Class A), people have thought I was Greek. People shout at me, ‘I’m Greek, you’re Greek.’ But I’m not.”
Youkilis is the son of a Romanian Jewish jewelry wholesaler, who Youkilis has described as a
“well-known third baseman in the Jewish Community Center fast-pitch softball league.”
Youkilis was a kid who grew up in Cincinnati rooting for the Reds, who dutifully went to Hebrew school through Bar Mitzvah (“It was a long Haftorah,” he recalls), before his parents allowed him to concentrate on baseball. Later the Red Sox infielder had to make the tough decision about whether to play on Yom Kippur, and he chose to play. This disgusted some Jewish observers but there are Jews of all flavors and this choice doesn’t make him any less a self-identifying Jew.
For sure, the children will have the multi-sport potential, but how will they be raised? Will their religion be baseball, football? Is this adequate for a well rounded person. I think that Judaism has a lot to offer, especially if you enjoy the sport you’re involved in. Some rabbis have been known to encourage competitive play on the Sabbath on the principle that what give a person pleasure should be done, even more so, on the Sabbath.
I hope that the happy couple will discuss religion and the upbringing of their children. I would love to count them in my upcoming Jewish population surveys. Perhaps they will grow up belonging to a Jewish Community Center like their dad and grandpa have.
Pini Herman, PhD. has served as Asst. Research Professor at the University of Southern California Dept. of Geography, Adjunct Lecturer at the USC School of Social Work, Research Director at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles following Bruce Phillips, PhD. in that position (I was recently notified that with 40,000 visitors this year the 15 year old study of the LA Jewish population was third most downloaded study from Berman Jewish Policy Archives in 2011) and is immediate past President of the Movable Minyan a lay-lead independent congregation in the 3rd Street area. Currently he is a principal of Phillips and Herman Demographic Research. To email Pini: firstname.lastname@example.org To follow Pini on Twitter: Follow @pinih