The Jewish Sport Report: This Holocaust survivor threw out the first pitch on her 100th birthday
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Today is the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, which celebrates the spring harvest and the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. One popular Shavuot custom is to enjoy dairy products, like cheesecake.
So if you’re going to a game this weekend, or even just watching at home, enjoy an ice cream cone or slice of cake — it’s a mitzvah! And let us know by emailing us at [email protected]: What’s your favorite ballpark/stadium treat?
A 100th birthday for the ages
Holocaust survivor Helen Kahan celebrated her 100th birthday in just about the best way I could imagine: by throwing out the ceremonial first pitch for her favorite baseball team, surrounded by her multi-generational family.
Is it misty in here?
Kahan, who survived multiple Nazi concentration camps, was joined by her two children, plus five grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren, on May 5 as the Tampa Bay Rays honored her before a matchup with the New York Yankees.
“I never could have imagined celebrating a birthday like this, let alone my 100th!” said Kahan. “I’m so grateful that I am here to tell my story and help the world remember why kindness and empathy are so important for us all.”
The Rays also announced a $10,000 partnership grant with the Florida Holocaust Museum, where Kahan volunteers. Kahan got a standing ovation, met several Rays players and coaches and had her story featured on the broadcast. Talk about a perfect game.
RED FLAG. Israel lost 2-1 to Colombia in its first-ever U-20 World Cup match last weekend, and the drama was not confined to the pitch. After a Colombia goal, fans raised a Palestinian flag in the stands. Israeli fans responded by shouting, “This is not politics, this is soccer.” Police eventually intervened and expelled the Palestinian flag holders.
WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS. The Denver Jewish Day School boys’ basketball team made history earlier this spring when it won the state championship — it was only the third time ever that a Jewish day school had won its state basketball championship. Along the way, they overcame antisemitism and pulled off a 15-point comeback.
CHAI-LIGHTS. Heichal Hatorah, a yeshiva in Teaneck, New Jersey, made it onto SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays this week, with this wild game-winning three-pointer in a JV basketball game.
PUT ME IN, COACH. Friend of the Sport Report Justine Siegal, the first woman to coach a professional men’s baseball team, was recently a guest coach in the Mexican Baseball League. Siegal is a pioneer of women’s baseball and an advocate for the sport around the world.
SHIPPING (BACK) UP TO BOSTON. Jewish tight end and Harvard alum Anthony Firkser has signed with the New England Patriots. Check out our 2021 interview with Firkser here. Maybe he’ll have Shabbat dinner at Robert Kraft’s house?
A Jewish guide to the French Open
The French Open, or Roland Garros, is underway, and there are numerous Jewish players and storylines to keep an eye on. Here’s your cheat sheet:
The 33-year-old Delaware native is ranked 94th in women’s singles and looks to make it past the second round in singles for the first time in her 10th French Open.
Fritz does not identify as Jewish, but his maternal grandfather was Jewish, and his great-great-grandfather was David May — the German-Jewish immigrant who founded the May Department Stores, which merged with Macy’s. Fritz is the best player of this group, entering the French Open with a men’s singles world ranking of 9.
The Italian star, who has said her favorite book is “The Diary of Anne Frank,” is ranked 36th in women’s singles and reached the fourth round last year.
Karatsev was born in Russia but moved to Israel at 3 years old and has said the country still feels like home. He’s currently ranked 62nd in men’s singles. This is his third French Open.
Schwartzman has struggled so far in 2023, dealing with a leg injury and some disappointing performances, dropping him down to 93rd in the rankings — the first time the Argentine is out of the top 30 since 2017. Schwartzman got his start at his local Jewish sports club near Buenos Aires, and has enjoyed the Roland Garros in the past — he reached the semifinals in 2020, the quarterfinals in 2021 and 2018 and the fourth round last year.
Shapovalov, ranked 31st in men’s singles, was born in Tel Aviv to a Ukrainian Jewish mom and Russian Orthodox Christian dad. He often wears a cross when he plays, but his mom considers him Jewish. This is the 24-year-old’s fifth French Open.
Svitolina, who had a Jewish grandmother, is back at Roland Garros for the first time since 2021. The Ukrainian star, who took a break from tennis in 2022 due to the war in her home country — and the birth of her first child last fall — has made it to the French Open quarterfinals three times.
Jews in sports to watch this weekend
⚾️ IN BASEBALL…
Atlanta Braves rookie Jared Shuster, who earned his first MLB win on Monday, will take the mound Friday at 7:20 p.m. ET against Garrett Stubbs, Dalton Guthrie and the Philadelphia Phillies. Dean Kremer toes the rubber for the Baltimore Orioles Saturday at 4:05 p.m. ET against the Texas Rangers. Jewish stars Max Fried and Joc Pederson, both of whom are on the injured list, are making progress toward a return.
⚽️ IN SOCCER…
Manor Solomon and Fulham F.C. host Man United Sunday at 11:30 a.m. ET. Over in the U-20 World Cup, Israel plays Japan Saturday at 5 p.m. ET. Israel lost to Colombia last weekend and finished with a 1-1 draw against Senegal on Wednesday. Jewish midfielder Daniel Edelman is representing the United States in the tournament — they play Slovakia this afternoon at 2 p.m. ET.
🏎️ IN RACING…
Aston Martin driver Lance Stroll will race in the Monaco Grand Prix Sunday at 9 a.m. ET. Stroll is currently eighth in the standings.
Twenty-one years ago this week, Shawn Green put together one of the most impressive single-game performances in baseball history, collecting a record 19 total bases — he went 6 for 6 with four home runs. A Jewish baseball legend!
This article originally appeared on JTA.org.