The Sports Mitzvah
Ep. 6: How the world of professional sports reshaped a rite of passage for American Jewish teens
Jews don’t have to go pro in sports to love them, and nothing demonstrates that amateur love more than dedicating a whole lifecycle event to it. On this episode, we’re diving into the sports-themed bar mitzvah—and, of course, the coveted shoutout from a professional athlete—and what the confluence of sports and this rite of passage tells us about Jewish identity in America.
In this episode, we’ll hear about the time Sandy Koufax showed up to a D.C.-area synagogue for a bat mitzvah, and about the bat mitzvah at The Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center that Yogi himself attended. We’ll talk to parents and their now-adult children about pulling off their own b’nai mitzvah sports miracles. We’ll even hear from longtime sports broadcaster Ernie Johnson Jr. about why he always says yes when he’s asked to record mazel messages for bar mitzvah boys and girls, and about one specific message that he’s never forgotten. Plus, Rabbi Erez Sherman of Sinai Temple explains why these connections between sports and faith can help bring meaning to both.
Over the course of this series, host Meredith Shiner explores how Jewish culture, American culture, and sports culture intersect. She’ll talk to journalists, athletes, amateur and professional sports nerds, and fans who have spent as much time obsessing over these topics as she has.
Photo courtesy Dave Kaplan
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