A league of their own: Rabbis and congregants at the bat – By Cindy Mindell
was about a year ago that Temple Shalom congregant Pete Trager, a
member of Temple Shalom in Norwalk, was batting around programming
ideas with Rabbi Brian Leiken. "We needed a way to rally the troops,"
Trager says, referring to the men of the Norwalk congregation.
two decided on softball, and Trager volunteered to organize a team. The
25-year veteran of the sport, both at college and in recreational
leagues, now plays on a team in New Canaan, where he lives.
invited players through the temple bulletin and emails, but response
was slow and players weren't very experienced. At first, he planned to
join the Stamford JCC league, which hosts Sunday pickup games. Then he
thought to get a team together for a Norwalk league, "but I walked into
a meeting where everyone seemed to be 6'-5" and over," he says. The New
Canaan league was too competitive as well.
So Trager changed
tactics: Why not invite all the area synagogues? Last summer,
Congregation Beth El in Norwalk and The Conservative Synagogue (TCS) in
Westport each put together a team. "We had a meeting at Temple Shalom
to discuss the rules; it was like something out of 'The Godfather,'" he
Rabbi Ron Fish of Congregation Beth El in Norwalk sent
Gary Mozer, co-chair of the synagogue's L'Chaim Society men's group and
a softball veteran who plays at the Stamford JCC. The two are former
Camp Ramah of New England staffers who met on the camp's softball
diamond nearly 20 years ago, and now play together on CBE's team.
Adam Chusid of TCS says he was "voluntold" by the synagogue president to get a minyan on the softball field.
a wonderful sport, and a great opportunity for people who haven't
played for a while to play in a non-competitive setting," says Chusid,
who has played in recreational leagues since he could pick up a bat.
It's also a chance for observant Jews to get in the game, including
TCS's Rabbi Jeremy Wiederhorn.
The inaugural season had only a
handful of games, played in New Canaan, Stamford, and Westport, and
many players were a little rusty, Trager says, but the tone was casual
"I had to teach everybody to go out for a beer
afterwards," he says. Some of the games were held at area elementary
schools with playgrounds and picnic areas so that member families can
make a day of it.
The guys came back for the new season start in
May, and Jeff Pardo of Temple Sinai in Stamford organized a new team
this year, With games planned for every other Sunday, Trager sees the
potential for a formal league, which he hopes to expand to between
eight and 12 teams. Players have a range of expertise, from those
currently active on other teams to first-timers.
as a Jewish league, is that people want to go from third base to first
base," Chusid says. There are halachic questions that come up on the
field, Trager says, "like when we went into extra innings and asked
Rabbi Fish if we needed to break for mincha."
expands the Jewish community for guys," Chusid says. "You join your
synagogue's men's club and meet guys only from your town, but now we're
making friends in the community at large."
"To me it's all fun,"
says Trager, who says he has been named Commissioner for Life. "We're
already starting to consider football in the fall."