Jews in the News: Ryan Braun, Robin Weigert and Steven Speilberg

Major League Tribe Members

The following is a list of Jewish players on a major league team roster as of opening day (April 1). All these players (save the last one, below) have at least one Jewish parent and don’t identify with a faith other than Judaism:

RYAN BRAUN, 33, outfielder, Milwaukee. A six-time All-Star, Braun came back in 2016 after two previous sub-par seasons. He batted over .300 and hit 30 homers.

ALEX BREGMAN, 23, infielder, Houston. He made his major league debut last July, and hit a respectable .265 after a slow start. His family belongs to the oldest synagogue in New Mexico, where Bregman had his bar mitzvah.

CRAIG BRESLOW, 36, pitcher, Minnesota. Another bar mitzvah boy, Breslow has played for many teams. He hit a rough patch in 2016 and was sent to the minors. He pitched for Team Israel last September and helped them qualify for the World Baseball Classic. Minnesota offered him a major league contract shortly before the Classic tournament began, so he had to opt out of the tournament competition last March (Team Israel stunned everyone by making it to the tourney’s second round, after beating favorites Korea, Taiwan, and the Netherlands).

SCOTT FELDMAN, 34, pitcher, Cincinnati.  Like Breslow, Feldman has pitched for many teams and has struggled for the last two seasons. Like Breslow, he planned to pitch for Team Israel, but opted out when the Reds offered him a one-year contract late in January.

IAN KINSLER, 34, second base.  This 4-time All-Star team member really hit in 2016, smashing 28 homers and setting a new Tiger season record (8) for lead-off homers. He’s also a great fielder.

JOC PEDERSON, 24, outfielder; Los Angeles Dodgers. A streak hitter, he has great stretches and long slumps. In 2016, he hit 25 homers, but only batted .246. On opening day, 2017, he hit a grand-slam homer—the first Dodger to do so since 2000. He played for Team Israel in 2013.

KEVIN PILLAR, 28, outfielder, Toronto. Another bar mitzvah boy, Pillar overcame a slow start and ended up having had a good 2016 season at-the-bat. He’s also a great fielder.

DANNY VALENCIA, 32, infielder, Seattle. A good hitter, Valencia, who was bar mitzvah, will probably be a designated hitter this year, with stints at first base. He grew-up in the Miami area.

Reasonable people can differ whether to include Ty Kelly, 28, a Mets’ infielder who played for Team Israel this year. His mother is Jewish; but he was raised more Catholic than Jewish—and he now seems unsure where he stands religiously.

No Lie: Weigert Shines

The HBO 7-part series, “Big Little Lies,” which ended on April 2, garnered great reviews and big ratings. If you did see it, it’s probably still resonating with you. If you didn’t see it, you should. The third episode introduced ROBIN WEIGERT, 47, as Dr. Reisman, a therapist who begins treating Celeste (Nicole Kidman) and her violent husband, Perry. In the last two episodes, Reisman becomes an important character who sagely advises Celeste on how to save her life. I hope Weigert’s sterling performance quickly leads to meatier roles for her. 

I spoke to her in 2006, not long after she got an Emmy nomination for playing Calamity Jane in “Deadwood” and she said she was hoping to land enough good indie film roles to have a career comparable to Catherine Keener. Now, she’s probably too old for that path—but with so many new streaming outlets—a series starring role could be in her future.

Five Mensches Came Back

The original, three-part Netflix documentary series, “Five Came Back,” is good enough that it’s worth subscribing for one month just for it. The title refers to five Hollywood directors who put patriotism ahead of career and enlisted in the army or navy to make films for and about the armed forces during WWII (Frank Capra, John Ford, John Huston, George Stevens, and WILLIAM WYLER).  Prominent contemporary directors narrate the interwoven stories of the five (STEVEN SPEILBERG, 70, “does” Wyler; LAWRENCE KASDAN, 68, “does” Stevens, and so on).

There’s a lot of Jewish-related content in the series. The most, logically, comes in the Wyler segments. He won the Oscar three times for best director and risked his life to make perhaps the best WWII documentary, “Memphis Belle.” But I know that part of the pleasure in viewing a bio-series is the revelations that come as you watch the series. So, suffice it to say there’s a lot more interesting and “kvell-worthy” stuff about Wyler and the other directors.

One footnote: director ANATOLE LITVAK, discussed in the series, also enlisted and made important films for the armed forces. The documentary does not mention that he was Jewish. Actually, he was so prominent in making films and documentaries for the armed forces that the documentary could have been called "Six Came Back."



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