Can Ryan Braun Repent Enough To Win Back Jewish Fans?

Embracing Judaism Could Help Hebrew Hammer's Comeback

Benched: Ryan Braun can’t play baseball again until spring, after being suspended for using performance-enhancing drugs.
getty images
Benched: Ryan Braun can’t play baseball again until spring, after being suspended for using performance-enhancing drugs.

By Cary Spivak

Published November 18, 2013, issue of November 22, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

There are two things that every Jewish baseball fan knows about Ryan Braun.

First, the Milwaukee Brewer leftfielder is the best Jewish ballplayer in the majors today. Second, as a result of his self-inflicted tsoris, Braun faces the gargantuan challenge of winning back his fans when he returns to baseball next spring, following his 65-game suspension this past season for using banned performance-enhancing drugs.

“It’s hard to forgive someone who out and out lies and then gets caught,” said Ari Fleischer, who served as the White House press secretary for George W. Bush. He now heads Ari Fleischer Sports Communications.

Still, if there is any group that can forgive the new Hebrew Hammer, it’s the Jewish community, said Jason Miller, a Detroit rabbi and blogger who comments frequently on Jewish issues.

“We do value repentance so highly,” said Miller who is a member of the board of directors of the Michigan Jewish Sports Foundation. “We will be willing to give him a second chance.”

The Jewish community and fans of all backgrounds quickly embraced Braun in 2007, when he came to the major leagues as a soft-spoken third baseman. Braun, who was later moved to left field, got tagged soon as the “Hebrew Hammer,” the same nickname given to Hank Greenberg, the revered Detroit Tigers Hall of Famer.

Braun’s father is Jewish, and the five-time all-star has said he considers himself Jewish, although he did not have a bar mitzvah and has played on Yom Kippur.

Being Jewish is “not something he wears on his sleeve,” Miller acknowledged about Braun. In 2007, Miller related, he found himself staying at the same Arizona hotel as Braun, who was then a rookie. The ballplayer told him then, “I don’t think anybody on this team knows I’m Jewish.”

There are about a dozen Jewish major leaguers today, though many Jews may put asterisks next to some of their names because they have just one Jewish parent, play on Yom Kippur or have married a non-Jew.

But Irwin Cohen, a former Detroit Tigers front-office executive and the author of recent book, “Jewish History in the Time of Baseball’s Jews: Life on Both Sides of the Ocean,” said that there is still a connection: “You identify with them. You kvell.”

In Braun’s case, the kvelling has morphed into a kvetch.

“The biggest disappointment for many of us was that he was not truthful the first time around,” Miller said. “That was very disappointing to me.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “I don’t want to say, ‘Oh oh, I’m not Jewish,’ because when you say that, you sound like someone trying to get into a 1950s country club, “and I love the idea of being Jewish." Are you a fan of Seth Meyers?
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.