Congress, baseball and the Jews


Former congressman Martin Frost has a piece in Politico drawing what he calls "an extraordinary parallel" between baseball and politics — "the ascendancy of Jewish Americans in both professions."

Over the past 15 years, Jewish members of the House and Senate, for the first time, have occupied a number of elected leadership positions in both the House and the Senate, and in this session of Congress, there are six Jewish committee chairs in the Senate and four Jewish committee chairs in the House.

And this season, three of the brightest young stars in the major leagues are Jewish: the Boston Red Sox’s Kevin Youkilis, the Milwaukee Brewers’ Ryan Braun and the Texas Rangers’ Ian Kinsler. All three were on the 2008 baseball All-Star team, and all three are good bets for this year’s team as well.

Frost, a former chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, goes on to detail all the Jews currently in leadership positions in Congress, and then points out that while there have been Jewish baseball stars in the past (Koufax, Greenberg, etc.), there have never been three at one time like we have now*. He spends much less time explaining why exactly we should care about this parallel between baseball and politics and why it’s worthy of a Politico article, but he makes an attempt to do so here:

What’s going on here? It may be that, like many minority groups before them, the grandsons and granddaughters of immigrants who had to fight their way up the economic ladder are now free to follow whatever dream they want.

*One caveat to Frost’s article that should be pointed out is that while Ryan Braun is definitely of Jewish descent, the question of his Jewishness is a little complicated. As Nate Bloom wrote for JTA a couple years ago:

His father is Jewish and his mother is not Jewish. Although raised in no faith, he is clearly proud of his Jewish background, as an interview earlier in the summer with The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle made clear.

The assertion that Braun was raised in “no faith” is based on information received from the editors of the Jewish Sports Review, the most reliable and authoritative source on the Jewish heritage of athletes. They had received this information from Braun’s college coach, who had got it from Braun, himself. …

The issue came up in a profile of Braun, which appeared in the Aug. 28 edition of USA Today Sports Weekly.

The profile noted that Braun’s non-Jewish mother, Diane, grew up in a home where Greenberg once lived. It also mentioned that Braun’s father, Joe, was born in Tel Aviv and came to America as young boy. But, the story went on to say, “Ryan was not raised Jewish and never had a bar mitzvah, but suddenly he’s hearing from Jewish organizations claiming him as their own.”

“He’s totally not Jewish,” Braun’s mother was quoted as saying. “I heard some organization started called him, ‘The Hebrew Hammer.’ I said, ‘Oh no.’ My mother would be rolling over in her grave if she heard that.”

“Ryan is proud that people want to claim him now, but where were they before?” she added. “You know how that stuff works.” …

On Sept.14, one week before [Yom Kippur], the Web site of Major League Baseball quoted Braun as saying that he would play. “I am half Jewish, and I am not Orthodox,” he said. “So I never grew up celebrating the holidays. I’m going to play.”

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