, 2021-11-02 02:00:00,
A World Series of genealogical discoveries.
I’m a singer by name and by trade. I am neither a sports fan nor an expert on the subject. But this summer, after seeing the Associated Press report that “no practicing Orthodox Jewish player has made it to the big leagues,” I challenged sports journalists to recognize the most observant Orthodox Jew to have played and won the World Series, Morrie Arnovich.
I never imagined the article about my hometown heroes from Superior, Wis., would have led me to discover Morrie was also my blood relative.
I didn’t know why I cared so much about Morrie Arnovich. After the Forward published my article, I heard from journalists and sports fans who questioned my research and politely cast doubt on Morrie’s religious observance, as well as from some of his family who had thanked me for correcting the record.
While I was able to accurately answer most questions in the spirit my father, a reference librarian, would have, I was surprised to discover that Arnovich, like the recently drafted Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Jacob Steinmetz, actually did play in some games on Shabbat and other holy days while he was in the major leagues. But Arnovich still proudly considered himself to be an observant Orthodox Jew.
As I dug even deeper, I found that, according to the oral history delivered by his first cousin, Rabbi Alex Hyatt (originally Arnovich), in the Litvak shul Agudath Achim in Superior, the strictest observance of Shabbat — shomer Shabbos — was especially required of the chazzan. This tradition had gone all the way back to his hometown of Wilkomer, Lithuania.
I intentionally avoided questioning any of the players’ claims to Orthodoxy. But from these conversations with family, journalists and critics, I learned that while Rabbi Hyatt undoubtedly expected everyone to observe the Sabbath, he also recognized the reality of ministering to a remote industrial town where Jews worked for non-Jewish businesses and could not always be shomer Shabbat.
Morrie’s father was a gas station attendant and his family observed to the highest extent that they could under the circumstances. But Rabbi Hyatt had to require at least the minimum requirement of the chazzan being shomer Shabbat from all of those who observed in the community. I also learned that…
To read the original article, go to Click here