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Lake County Captains Jewish Heritage Night big hit

Posted August 16, 2023 in Articles


Fans enjoy bark mitzvah, shofar blowing, menorah lighting, kosher food

The Cleveland Jewish community united for an evening of celebration at the Lake County Captains game as the team presented Jewish Heritage Night. Children, adults and clergy members from several synagogues and temples, as well as representatives from local Jewish organizations, enjoyed a night filled with camaraderie, activities, food, culture and baseball.

Lake County Captains Jewish Heritage Night big hit

Eitan Levine and Horatio pose with a menorah during Jewish Heritage Night Aug. 10 at the Lake County Captains game at Classic Park in Eastlake.

Special guests, including TikTok star Eitan Levine and Lake County Captains mascot Horatio, joined in on the festivities. Horatio sported a kippah throughout the evening and had his own bar mitzvah with an unusual “reading” of the Torah because mascots do not speak.

“Bar mitzvahing Horatio was one of the best parts of the night,” said Doug Rich, ticket sales manager at the Lake County Captains, which is the High A affiliate of the Cleveland Guardians.

Jewish Heritage Night, which was held Aug. 10 at Classic Park in Eastlake and presented by the Cleveland Jewish News, had not been held for several years and Rich, who joined the Captains’ staff in February, had his sights set on bringing it back, he told the CJN.

Rich said his expectations for the evening were exceeded, having had 330 members of the Jewish community purchase tickets during the presale.

“(The community) totally blew this night out of the water,” Rich said.

In addition to Jewish Heritage Night, the Captains hosted “Bring Your Human Night,” so many fans brought their dogs to enjoy the game.

Levine attained TikTok fame after creating a series of “man on the street” interviews focused on Jewish topics.

“I’ve been doing stand-up in the city in New York for a while and then I was doing ‘man on the street’ interviews and I had the idea for Jewish (content) and I did one with a friend of mine and it got 3.2 million views fairly quickly,” Levine told the CJN when asked how his TikTok career took off.

Levine said the last year-and-a-half has been a fun period of creating Jewish content on TikTok, and he wound up at Jewish Heritage Night after Rich saw a video of him wearing merchandise from a collegiate team in Oregon which is owned by the same people who own the Captains, Alan Miller and Jon Ryan.

“I had done a video wearing a Portland Pickles’ jacket that went very viral and the Portland Pickles are owned by the same person that owns the Lake County Captains,” Levine told the CJN. “Doug Rich saw my Portland Pickles video, reached out to my manager and this all just came together through that.”

Lake County Captains Jewish Heritage Night big hit

Meir Jacoby throws out a ceremonial first pitch.

Rabbi Matt Eisenberg of Temple Israel Ner Tamid in Mayfield Heights united the stands with the blowing of his shofar. This was his fourth or fifth time attending a Captains’ game, he said.

“It’s a good time,” Eisenberg said. “Our congregation bought about 25 tickets.”

Eisenberg, who was a trumpet player in junior high and high school, has had the shofar he played at the game for about 50 years, he said.

“The shofar is among the most ancient instruments there (are) because it is an animal’s horn,” Eisenberg said. “The way it’s supposed to work in Judaism is one of the calls is a reminder of crying where you’re very filled with repentance for the sins and the bad things that you’ve done; one is a reminder of when God gave the Torah on Mount Sinai. We learned in the Torah that the sound of the shofar accompanied the giving of the Torahs; it’s like a reminder of God’s teaching at Mount Sinai; and it’s a reminder of ‘wake up and be a better person.’”

The shofar also has a call for people to gather together, which Eisenberg played at the game to unite attendees.

Josh Wolf, a Jewish pitcher for the Captains, said events like Jewish Heritage Night are great opportunities for Jewish children to see their role models representing their faith and culture in high profile careers such as professional baseball.

“You don’t really see a lot of Jewish Heritage around baseball; it’s very rare to see, especially a night centered around this,” Wolf told the CJN. “When I got to walk down here by the stands, the kids were asking me, ‘You’re Jewish, I’m Jewish too.’ It means a lot.”

Lake County Captains Jewish Heritage Night big hit

Captains mascot, Horatio, entertains the crowd

Wolf said, when he was growing up, he was the same way and tended to follow the Jewish players when he went to games. He said it is cool to know how much it means to kids when they see their Jewish role models succeed.

“To see that many Jewish people at a game, it means a lot to me and I hope down the line, I can keep seeing them and they can keep coming up to me and talking because I love to be able to talk to them and share my experience with what I’ve learned and what I’ve been able to do in my career.”

Cantor Gary Paller of Menorah Park and cantor emeritus of Congregation Shaarey Tikvah, both in Beachwood, sang “Hatikvah.” Temple Am Shalom spiritual leader Renee Blau sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Lake County Captains Jewish Heritage Night big hit

Cantor Gary Paller sings the Hatikvah

Milky Way of South Euclid offered pre-purchased meals that could be picked up at the game.

Other events held during inning breaks were lighting of a menorah and a CJN trivia contest in which Benjamin Brown of Pepper Pike correctly answered several Jewish trivia baseball questions.

“Jewish Heritage Night was an incredible event and the Cleveland Jewish News was honored to be the presenting sponsor for the first time,” said Andy Isaacs, sales and marketing manager who organized the CJN’s efforts to present the game. “The Lake County Captains were exceptional partners throughout the planning and execution of the night. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to Doug Rich from the Captains, who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure its success. Additionally, Andrew Grover’s in-game entertainment as the PA announcer and ‘hype man’ added an extra level of excitement. Most importantly, Jewish Heritage Night showcased the unity of Jewish Cleveland, drawing over 400 attendees from diverse facets of the community. We’re looking forward to growing this partnership in the years ahead as we continue to celebrate the strength of our community.”

After about a one-hour rain delay, the South Bend Cubs defeated the Captains, 9-1.

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