President’s Post – March 2017

Play Ball

Marc Kaiser, President

Hope springs eternal.

I’m reminded of that phrase around this time of year. Why? Because it’s the eve of the new Major League baseball season, of course. Many of you are familiar with the strong relationship between Jews in America and baseball. Well, count me among the long-afflicted.

With respect to baseball, my opening phrase means literally that every baseball fan has hope as the season begins that their team will prevail this year. In order to be a long-time (or long-suffering) fan, this belief, whether conscious or unconscious, must exist every year. Otherwise the foundation for one’s support falters.

But why are these words important for us as Jews? And how does this optimism translate for our people? Each of the three words in my opening phrase has meaning from a Jewish perspective.

For one, we are a hopeful people. For over 4,000 years we have maintained our identity, our history, and our customs, despite the difficulties our ancestors faced time and time again. We have thrived as a people, despite our geographic dispersion and our numbers relative to larger religious groups. Although we all know Jews whose circumstances challenge their optimism and belief in the future, we are a hopeful people who typically look to a brighter world full of opportunity and joy.

The use of the word “springs” in the opening phrase works on multiple levels. Ironically, baseball begins officially in March, when the seasons shifts from the cold bleakness of winter to the bright renewal of spring. The word also carries a connotation of quick movement upward, as when an object is moving to a higher plane. Since our own festival of trees heralding the spring, Tu B’Shevat, fell this year less than one week from the date that pitchers and catchers reported to their training camps in Arizona and Florida, the quick movement from planting seeds to throwing “seeds” (i.e., fastballs) is quite clear.

Last, the word “eternal” has deep roots in Judaism. Our Eternal Light burns continuously, just as baseball fans’ eternal loyalty burns for their team throughout the off-season and continues once play begins. How else do you explain the survival of Chicago Cubs fans, despite experiencing a 108-year World Series drought? And we thought 40 years in the desert was a long time!

Closer to home, our newly renovated Temple Beth El is a telling symbol of our hope. In spite of recent demographic studies pointing to the decline of Jewish institutions, our new building demonstrates our optimism for the future and our hope for the next generation who will call it their home. In this season, may your loyalty and love for our blessed community also spring eternal.