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A Blow To ‘The Hebrew Hammer’
Tue, 07/23/2013 - 20:00

The news that Ryan Braun, the star Milwaukee Brewers outfielder who won the National League Most Valuable Player award last year, has been suspended for the rest of the season for violating baseball’s drug policy, is disappointing for baseball fans everywhere. Perhaps more so for those who embraced him as “The Hebrew Hammer,” one of the finest Jewish players in the game in many years.

No doubt some fickle fans in our community will now place greater emphasis on the fact that while Braun’s father is Jewish and a Holocaust survivor, his mother is Catholic, and they’ll proclaim, “He’s not really Jewish, after all.” But hey, he has always said he is Jewish and asserted that he is “extremely proud to be a role model for Jewish kids.”

Not these days, though.

We tend to embrace as Jews the heroes we like, even if their lineage is not fully halachic, and distance ourselves from famous folks who, though clearly members of the tribe, we’re not so keen on. As in: “You mean Lepke Buchalter (the mobster from Murder Inc.) was Jewish?!”

In the meantime, Shalom, Ryan Braun — and is it true Miguel Cabrera’s bubbe and zeyde founded a shul in Venezuela?

Ryan Braun

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As Coordinator of the Half-Jewish Network, I am pleased to see a compassionate and reasonable response to the professional problems of Ryan Braun by the Jewish Week.

All too often, half-Jewish celebrities are initially welcomed by the Jewish community, in ways that other non-celebrity half-Jewish people are often not welcomed, even when the celebrity is not halachically Jewish according to Orthodox law or does not identify as a Jew at all.

Jewish outreach professionals cynically call this "the celebrity exception."

Then, if a half-Jewish celebrity runs into professional or personal difficulties, sometimes other Jews will suddenly announce that this person "isn't really Jewish" or "isn't halachically Jewish," or "isn't Jewish enough," even if the celebrity identifies as a Jew.

It is good that the Jewish Week is taking a stand against this attitude, which only harms the Jewish community.

Robin Margolis