The First Orthodox Jew to Play Professional Baseball

In the third game of the World Baseball Classic last month, a nineteen-year-old unknown struck out a thirty-year-old veteran. Such an upset would be noteworthy in itself, but what makes the event truly surprising is that the pitcher was an Orthodox Jew named Jacob Steinmetz, playing for team Israel, and the batter Manny Machado, considered one of the best of the Major League, playing for the powerhouse team of the Dominican Republic. (During the regular season, Machado is the third baseman for the San Diego Padres.) Elli Wohlgelernter writes:

It was July 13, 2021 [when] the Arizona Diamondbacks selected seventeen-year-old Jacob with the 77th pick of the amateur draft, a month after he graduated from high school. It was a watershed pick: Jacob became the first practicing Orthodox Jew drafted to play organized baseball, dating back to the first draft in 1965.

Arizona wasn’t worried about caring for Steinmetz’s religious needs when they drafted him. According to the scout [Alex] Jacobs, the senior vice-president and assistant general manager of the Diamondbacks, Amiel Sawdaye, is a practicing Jew . . . who explained the inside baseball of kosher to the front office . . . and assured them that it would not be a problem.

“In fact,” Jacobs said, “they called his agent right before they were going to draft him and said, ‘Listen, we’re going to accommodate everything you could possibly need to make this as comfortable as possible for you so that you can be set up for success.” And so they have. Whereas once upon a time, Jacob had to pack his mom’s sandwiches in a cooler bag when traveling to tournaments, frozen packages will now be shipped to the team from a catering company once a week to wherever Jacob is playing.

As for Machado, he proved himself a model of sportsmanship, autographing a ball for Steinmetz after the game with the words, “Great pitch. Keep working. The sky’s the limit.”

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: American Jewry, Baseball, Modern Orthodoxy, Sports

Recognizing a Palestinian State Won’t Help Palestinians, or Even Make Palestinian Statehood More Likely

While Shira Efron and Michael Koplow are more sanguine about the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, than I am, I found much worth considering in their recent article on the condition of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Particularly perceptive are their comments on the drive to grant diplomatic recognition to a fictive Palestinian state, a step taken by nine countries in the past few months, and almost as many in total as recognize Israel.

Efron and Koplow argue that this move isn’t a mere empty gesture, but one that would actually make things worse, while providing “no tangible benefits for Palestinians.”

In areas under its direct control—Areas A and B of the West Bank, comprising 40 percent of the territory—the PA struggles severely to provide services, livelihoods, and dignity to inhabitants. This is only partly due to its budgetary woes; it has also never established a properly functioning West Bank economy. President Mahmoud Abbas, who will turn ninety next year, administers the PA almost exclusively by executive decrees, with little transparency or oversight. Security is a particular problem, as militants from different factions now openly defy the underfunded and undermotivated PA security forces in cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

Turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) from a transitional authority into a permanent state with the stroke of a pen will not make [its] litany of problems go away. The risk that the state of Palestine would become a failed state is very real given the PA’s dysfunctional, insolvent status and its dearth of public legitimacy. Further declines in its ability to provide social services and maintain law and order could yield a situation in which warlords and gangs become de-facto rulers in some areas of the West Bank.

Otherwise, any steps toward realizing two states will be fanciful, built atop a crumbling foundation—and likely to help turn the West Bank into a third front in the current war.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood