Friday, October 03, 2014

Gmar Chatima Tova, guys

Some things to chew on....

In 1934 Hank Greenberg of the Detroit Tigers skipped a World Series game that coincided with Yom Kippur, a holiday no one in America knew about prior to the mass influx of refugees after World War II. A syndicated poet (the "people's poet" Eddie Guest) congratulated him with the following ditty:

by Edgar A. Guest, 1934

The Irish didn’t like it when they heard of Greenberg’s fame
For they thought a good first baseman should possess an Irish name;
And the Murphy’s and Mulrooney’s said they never dreamed they’d see
A Jewish boy from Bronxville out where Casey used to be.
In the early days of April not a Dugan tipped his hat
Or prayed to see a “double” when Hank Greenberg came to bat.

In July the Irish wondered where he’d ever learned to play.
“He makes me think of Casey!” Old Man Murphy Dared to say;
And with fifty-seven doubles and a score of homers made
The respect they had for Greenberg was being openly displayed.
But on the Jewish New Year when Hank Greenberg came to bat
And made two home runs off pitcher Rhodes-they cheered like mad for that.

Came Yom Kippur-holy fast day world wide over to the Jew-
And Hank Greenberg to his teaching and the old tradition true
Spent the day among his people and he didn’t come to play.
Said Murphy to Mulrooney, “We shall lose the game today!”
We shall miss him on the infield and shall miss him at the bat,
But he’s true to his religion-and I honor him for that!”

One fan responded with the following barb, "Rosh Hashanah comes every year but the Tigers haven't won the pennant since 1909."

(Greenberg played on Rosh Hashana that year but sat out the Yom Kippur game)

From the New Yorker, in 1928, back before the holy Hungarians got here, in the days when no one cared about the Jewish God or religion and the water alongside Ellis Island was thick with the tefillin new Jewish immigrants had thrown away.

Finally a throw-away reference to Yom Kippur in Babbit, a great book everyone should read. The main character, not a Jew, is on a train gabbing with a group of men described as "The Best Fellows You''ll Ever Meet - Real Good Mixers," and the "knife-edge man in a green velour hat" is telling about the time he asked a Chicago hotel clerk for a room with a bath: "You'd a thought I'd sold him a second, or asked him to work on Yom Kippur," is how the knife-edge man describes the clerk's dismay.

Babbit was published in 1922. How its author, Sinclair Lewis, knew about Yom Kippur at that early date eons before the holy shabbos-keeping Jews arrived following the war and brought Judaism to these shores is anyone's guess.
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