Summer's Here!

A hallmark of summer

I remember it well. Sitting anxiously in the historic sanctuary of Beth El Congregation in Fort Worth for the religious school’s “closing exercises.” Everyone was fidgeting, and ready to head out to the spring-fed waters of Burger’s Lake for the end-of-the-year picnic. It was a tradition, as was Rabbi Robert J. Schur’s annual advice for how to best spend one’s summer. Without fail, the beloved rabbi — who has long since passed away — said, “Read a good book, take a long walk, and make a new friend.” To be honest, there aren’t too many things I remember with such clarity. And every summer I say the same thing to my own children. Here’s our TJP suggestions for how to accomplish Rabbi Schur’s suggestions.

— Sharon Wisch-Ray

Read a good book … or two

Two new books — one about Hank Greenberg, one about Jews’ roles in the black leagues — explore the American Jewish baseball experience.

Steve Lipman
Staff Writer, New York Jewish Week

“Hank Greenberg: The Hero Who Didn’t Want to Be One.” Mark Kurlansky, Jewish Lives, 164 pages, $25.

Unlike football and basketball, which venerate their current athletes as obviously the fastest and strongest and most talented (how many young fans of Michael Jordan even know who Wilt Chamberlain or Bill Russell are?), baseball honors its past. Like Judaism, which recognizes the greatness of previous leaders and of previous generations, baseball awards the title of its Golden Era to the years of the 1920s, the 1930s and the 1940s, when the “live ball,” home run-hitting style of play emerged. The home run records of Babe Ruth have long been eclipsed, but no subsequent player has challenged The Babe’s role as the best ever.
The mythical days of the National Pastime hold a special place for Jewish fans, whether in the storied career of Hank Greenberg, baseball’s first Jewish superstar, who nearly equaled Babe Ruth’s single season home run record and sat out a game on Yom Kippur in a time of growing anti-Semitism, or the largely unknown and unhonored men who served as partners with black America in promoting the sport’s separate black leagues, then in ending segregation in baseball.
Rabbi Alpert, associate professor of religion and women’s studies at Temple University, and Kurlansky, an author of 20 books, both bring a scholar’s research and writer’s grace to their subjects.
Kurlansky’s book, part of Yale University Press’ engaging Jewish Lives series, provides a fresh perspective and historical context to Greenberg, depicting him honestly as a man who had limited natural ability but became a star through hard work and year-round conditioning. Although an indifferent student in high school, Greenberg widened his intellect through a dedicated regimen of reading, and while thoroughly secular, he took a stand for his community — if not for a religious principle — by missing a late season game on Yom Kippur in 1934, leaving a mark on Jewish history that remained unique until the arrival of Sandy Koufax and Shawn Green decades later.
Greenberg, who changed his first name from Hymie but refused to change his last name, lived the rest of his life as a Jewish hero, a stature that gave him great discomfort. “Greenberg had never wanted to be known as the Jewish baseball player,” Kurlansky writes. “All he wanted to do was play baseball. But it was his lot to play baseball in the most anti-Semitic period in American history, and in times of anti-Semitism, Jews and anti-Semites alike garner attention. Whether he liked it or not, Greenberg was never going to be just a baseball player.”
“Out of Left Field: Jews and Black Baseball.” Rebecca Alpert, Oxford University Press, 236 pages, $27.95.

Then, in his second full season with the Detroit Tigers, while the team faced a pennant race with the New York Yankees, this son of an Orthodox family from the Bronx decided not to play on Yom Kippur, 10 days after — with a rabbi’s approval — he had played on Rosh Hashanah. “The decision resonated far beyond what he could have imagined,” Kurlansky writes. “It marked the beginning of the enduring myth of Hank Greenberg.”
Kurlansky tells about Greenberg’s financial savvy (negotiating his own contracts, he earned the second-highest salary in baseball, behind only Babe Ruth), his encounters with anti-Semitism (“he spent the better part of twenty years on the receiving end of anti-Semitic abuse in ballparks”), his run at Babe Ruth’s record 60-home-run season (“there is no evidence of conspiracy” on the part of anti-Semitic, opposing pitchers “against Greenberg”) and his army service (at the height of his career, he volunteered for the U.S Army during World War II, spending three years as a soldier).
The contours of Greenberg’s life are already known; Kurlansky succeeds in adding subtlety.
Rabbi Alpert’s book faces a different challenge — telling a story few people today know.
Her book, on the Jews — mostly businessmen and journalists — who were part of black baseball from the formation of the so-called Negro Leagues in the 1920s until the separate leagues ended three generations later with the breaking of baseball’s color line, grew out of her childhood admiration for Jackie Robinson, the first known African-American in modern-day Major League Baseball. Interested in the relationship between American Jews and “black baseball,” she discovered that “Jews came unexpectedly ‘out of left field’ to play a significant — although decidedly less heroic and more complex — role in the history of black baseball than I could ever have imagined,” she writes.
Though the cover of “Out of Left Field” shows entrepreneur Max Rosner in a 1917 team photo with the Brooklyn Royal Giants, the book goes beyond Jewish ownership of black teams.
The rabbi, with significant historical background, tells of Jewish journalists who argued for the desegregation of baseball, a black Jewish team in Virginia, of Jews’ role in integrating sports. Of possibly greatest interest is Abe Saperstein, the founder and owner of basketball’s Harlem Globetrotters who had an active role in the Negro Leagues and helped the first black players get contracts in Japanese baseball.
For many, ownership of black baseball teams was primarily a business decision, Rabbi Alpert writes. “Anti-Semitism made Jews, and Eastern European immigrant Jews in particular, unwelcome in many traditional white businesses. European immigrants found opportunities in marginal or newly developing businesses, especially entertainment and sports,” she writes. “Small businessmen who lacked the financial resources to own teams in organized white baseball were in a position to make substantial sums in the undercapitalized world of black baseball.”
These owners, according to Rabbi Alpert, “were outsiders who lived on the other side of the racial divide. Their Jewishness sometimes made them the object of skepticism and antipathy. But at other times, being Jewish, and their presumed Jewish acumen, added to their power. Jewishness also occasionally inspired feelings of kinship based on the connection between oppressed minorities.”
In retrieving the story of the Jewish role in black baseball, Rabbi Alpert fills in an illustrative and symbolic gap in history, offering an insight into the relations between blacks and Jews that strengthened during the Civil Rights era and subsequently became frayed.
“The Jews of black baseball ended in obscurity, their customs and practices no longer acceptable,” she writes. “But as the children of immigrants and descendants of slaves, they accomplished more than was expected of them. Their lives and legacies confirm the complexity of black and Jewish identities and relationships, and underscore the importance of baseball as a location for understanding mid-20th century America.”
Reprinted with permission of the New York Jewish Week, Contact

Take a long walk

Rabbi Schur recommended taking a long walk, as something a good summer should not be without. Head out early before it gets too hot.

Arbor Hills Nature Preserve

6701 W. Parker Rd. Plano, TX
Park hours are 5 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Gates are closed when park is closed.

Located on the western border of Plano, Arbor Hills Nature Preserve is a 200-acre park featuring vast areas of natural beauty for walking, jogging, hiking, orienteering and other outdoor activity. Amenities include: playground, restrooms, paved recreational trail (approx. 2.3 miles), natural unpaved trails for pedestrians only, designated off-road cycling trail (approx. 2 miles), a natural biofilter for cleaning surface run-off from the parking lot before it reenters the ground water, tables, an observation tower, pavilion and an interpretive trail map.

Dog Park At Jack Carter Park

2601 Pleasant Valley Dr., Plano, TX
Dog park hours are sunrise to sunset daily

Dog Park info-line 972-941-BARK (2275)

The dog park is a double-gated, fenced, 2-acre area along Bluebonnet Trail, near its intersection with Chisholm Trail in central Plano. The park has benches, picnic tables, water stations for humans and animals and waste pickup/disposal stations. The dog park is closed for maintenance on the first and third Tuesday of each month.

Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve

5901 Los Rios Blvd. (Between Jupiter and Parker Road) Plano, TX
Park hours are 5 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Gates are closed when park is closed.

Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve, Plano’s largest park, is an 800-acre park extending from Parker Road on the south to Chaparral Road on the north and from Spring Creek Parkway on the west to Los Rios Boulevard on the east. The park boasts 3.5 miles of concrete trails and 5 miles of soft surface trails located along Rowlett Creek. Nature trails are open from sunrise to sunset daily.

Dallas Arboretum

8525 Garland Road on White Rock Lake
Park hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Closed – New Years Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day

The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Society is a privately-run division of the Department of Park and Recreation. For other information, including rental availability for weddings and public events, contact the Arboretum Offices at 214-515-6500.

Cedar Ridge Preserve

7171 Mountain Creek Parkway, Dallas, TX
Park hours are:
Nov. 1 – March 31 – 6:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
April 1 – Oct. 31 – 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Closed Mondays

At an elevation of 755 feet, Cedar Ridge Preserve (formerly the Dallas Nature Center) is a slice of the Hill Country just 20 minutes from downtown Dallas. Cedar Ridge Preserve is a natural habitat of 600 acres, featuring about 9 miles of trails, native trees, grasses and wildflowers, butterfly gardens, limited picnic areas and wild mammals, birds, insects and reptiles.

White Rock Lake

8300 East Lawther Drive Dallas, TX
White Rock Lake is a unique, 1,015 acre city lake which offers a wide variety of outdoor activities, including:

  • Hike and bike trail (9.33 miles)
  • Audubon Society-designated bird watching area and wetlands site
  • Numerous scenic picnic areas
  • Rental facilities
  • Fishing piers for catfish, sunfish, and bass fishing
  • Special events, including the March of Dimes Walk America, White Rock Marathon, the White Rock Lake Trash Bash and numerous sponsored runs

Call 214-670-8890 for information.

The Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge

9601 Fossil Ridge Road, Fort Worth, TX
Nature Center Hours
Refuge Weekdays 8:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Refuge Weekends 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Hardwicke Interpretive Center Daily 9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Admission  $5 Adults (13-64) $2 Children (3-12; under 3 FREE) $3 Seniors (65+) $1 Discount per person (with Military ID)

The Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge (FWNC&R) is a hidden jewel – a wilderness comprised of forests, prairies, and wetlands reminiscent of how much of the Fort Worth/Dallas Metroplex once looked. At 3,621 acres, the FWNC&R is one of the largest city-owned nature centers in the United States. Over 20 miles of hiking trails provide easy access to a myriad of natural wonders to be found on the refuge. The FWNC&R offers a variety of education programs and hikes for individuals, schools and families.

— Compiled by TJP intern Emily Rosenfeld

Make a new friend

Here is a smattering of opportunities to get to know some fellow Jews this summer. Of course, the J and your synagogue are a great place to get together as well.

July 17 and 31

DATA of Plano’s Family Fun in the Park
6:30-8:30 p.m.

Looking for fun for the family? Looking to meet other Jewish families? Join DATA for fun, entertainment for kids, and a raffle for great prizes. Free admission and snacks will be available.
Info: Nathaniel Zakon,
Russell Creek Park, 3500 McDermott, Plano

July 19, 26 and Aug. 2

Cinema Emanu-El
7 p.m.

The movies “Brothers,” “Just An Ordinary Jew” and “Wrong Side of the Bus” will be shown on consecutive Tuesdays, followed by discussions with members of the clergy. Admission is $4 for a single show and $12 for a season pass. Free popcorn, candy and soda will be available.
Info: Nancy Rivin at 214.706.0000 ext. 155,
Temple Emanu-El
8500 Hillcrest Road, Dallas

July 20 and 27

Israeli Dancing
7:30 p.m.

This class typically meets in the Oneg Room, but may be changed to the multi purpose room as needed.
Info: Linda Kahalnik, 972-234-1542
Congregation Beth Torah
720 W. Lookout Drive, Richardson

July 22 and Aug. 26

Story Fridays
10-11 a.m.

Story time with a twist for children 6 months to 2-years-old not currently enrolled at Levine Academy. The event is free, but reservations are recommended.
Info/RSVP: Mireille or Sheryl, 972-248-3032,
Ann and Nate Levine Academy
18011 Hillcrest Road, Dallas

July 26

Congregation Beth Torah Texas Hold’em Poker Night
7 p.m.

Come for a night of fun and friendship. $15 for members, $20 for non-members.
Info: Neil B.,
720 W. Lookout Drive, Richardson

Aug. 21

Chai Lights Ice Cream Social
2:30-4:30 p.m.

Chai Lights will hold a summer ice cream social followed by a travel program with Eleanore Avery.
Info: Bev Broman,
Congregation Beth Torah Oneg Room
720 W. Lookout Drive, Richardson

Aug. 28

JCC Jewish Arts Festival
10 a.m.-6 p.m.

The 13th Jewish Arts Fest of Dallas sponsored by the Jewish Community Center will return to the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center following a two-year hiatus. Combining the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of a culture steeped in thousands of years of history, the festival is a magical mosaic featuring an arts and craft exhibition and sale, music that will appeal to people of all ages, an array of interesting speakers, children’s hands-on craft activities and much more. The Arts Fest is a showcase for all of Dallas’ Jewish organizations and synagogues. It provides a wonderful opportunity for the community to learn about and interact with all of the various local Jewish organizations. The festival will provide many delicious kosher treats throughout the day for everyone’s enjoyment.
Info: Judy Cohn, 214-239-7115,
Meyerson Symphony Hall
2301 Flora St. Dallas

Aug. 30

Mothers’ Circle
9:30-10:30 a.m.

The Mothers’ Circle, a free educational program for mothers of all backgrounds raising Jewish children, is a support, education and experiential program with components including classroom discussion, practical instruction on Jewish living (cooking, home observance and holidays) and group work in family dynamics. The circle is designed to impart training in Jewish life skills via an interactive method, and provide a support network of peers that will help one another.
Info: Renee Karp,
Congregation Beth Torah
720 W. Lookout Drive, Richardson

Aug. 1 and Sept. 5

Evening Book Club
7:30 p.m.

The two books discussed will be “The Blindness of the Heart” by Julia Franck on Aug. 1 and “The Trials of Zion” by Alan Dershowitz on Sept. 5.
Info: 972-661-1810
Temple Shalom
6930 Alpha Road, Dallas

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