May 30, 2002
Jewish Fans Fill Dodger Stands
"Hot dogs! Get your glatt kosher hot dogs."
Not your typical vendor cry? Not your typical Dodgers game.
The fourth annual Jewish Community Day at Dodger Stadium boasted an Israeli and American flag color guard, a reserved section filled with as many kippot as baseball caps, and a 10-1 Los Angeles victory over the Montreal Expos. Despite overcast skies, hundreds of Jewish Angelenos turned out on May 19 to enjoy America's favorite pastime.
"It's a great way to celebrate Los Angeles Jewry and Los Angeles baseball," said Jewish Community Day founder Phil Blazer. "We started the day four years ago, in 12 ballparks across the country, to celebrate Israel's 50th birthday. Now it's an annual L.A. tradition," said Blazer, president of Blazer Communications Jewish Media Group.
The festivities commenced with a pregame ceremony honoring the Dodger's Jewish right-fielder, Shawn Green. Holding the franchise's all time season home run record (49 HR in 2001), the soft-spoken southpaw is a role model to Jewish youngsters.
"I play right field in the Maccabi League, just like Green," said Avi Bina, 10, who attended the game with younger brother, Ozyel. "I wish I could play for the Dodgers like him someday, and I'll take off Yom Kippur, too," added the Yavnah student, moments before Green granted the brothers a dugout photo opportunity.
Last September, Green broke his 415 consecutive games-played streak when he sat out the Dodgers' Yom Kippur battle against San Francisco. Green, who is a source of great pride to the Jewish community, was happy to see fellow Jews sporting "Dodger Blue."
"It's a really fun day out here," Green told The Journal at the afternoon's end. "It's nice to have the Jewish community come out and enjoy a game, especially when it's a victorious one like today," said the Orange County native who conquered his recent hitting slump with an eighth-inning double to right-center.
The event featured an all-star Jewish roster, with representatives from numerous Los Angeles affiliations contributing to the day's success. Jewish Home for the Aging Chairman Meyer Gottlieb threw out the game's first pitch to former Motion Picture Academy President Arthur Hiller. Jews for Judaism's Rabbi Aaron Perry oversaw the early morning kashering of a reserve deck concession stand. And Jeff Rohatiner, of Jeff's Gourmet Kosher Sausage Factory, served up foot-long glatt kosher hot dogs, created specifically to emulate the world-famous larger-than-bun Dodger Dogs. The team effort paid off, creating a wondrous day for local Jewish youth.
Chai Lifeline, a nonprofit organization that provides health-support services to children with life-threatening illnesses, brought a group of over 100 children and their families to the ballpark. The Chai field trip marked Daniel Bral's very first baseball game. "It's exactly how I imagined a game would be," said the wide-eyed Bral from beneath his still-stiff Dodger's cap. "And today it feels like I'm watching the Dodgers with a giant family," added the Sinai Akiba seventh-grader.
Matt Vaznaian, 15, thought he was simply attending a baseball game with his Jewish Big Brother, Scott Tiano. He was stunned to learn that the pair had been chosen to represent the Big Brother organization during the on-field pregame ceremony. "We've done so many things together, but this was the best surprise ever," said the Granada Hills teen. "It's great that the Dodgers are showing support for the Jewish people, especially with everything going on right now in Israel," Vaznaian added.
In this time of rising Israeli conflict, the attendees appreciated the Dodgers' recognition of the Jewish community. But what they really cherished was the brief respite from current Jewish strife. The afternoon's most frequently overheard concerns: "Will our boy Green score a home run?" and "Are the pretzels really pareve?"
Definitely an atypical day in Chavez Ravine.