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(JTA) — Hello and happy February! Spring Training is only days away, which means baseball is just about back. Hallelujah!
An Israeli gold medal in Qatar
Yuval Freilich celebrates after a victory during the 2019 European Fencing Championships in Germany. (Federico Gambarini/Getty Images)
Israeli fencer Yuval Freilich won a gold medal at the 2024 Qatar Grand Prix on Wednesday, winning the individual men’s epee title.
Freilich, the 8th-ranked men’s epee fencer in the world, won the medal while wearing a uniform with an Israeli flag and the message “Am Israel Chai,” Hebrew for “the people of Israel lives,” written on his shoulder.
That would have been an evocative image on its own. But Freilich did it in Doha, Qatar, a country that lacks formal relations with Israel. Qatar is also home to Hamas’ political leadership.
“The win in Qatar and waving the Israeli flag in times like these on this unique stage is Israeli pride at its peak,” said Gili Lustig, the CEO of Israel’s Olympic Committee, according to the Times of Israel.
Freilich’s victory also puts him one step closer to securing a spot at the 2024 Paris Olympics. Read more about the fencer here.
CHEERY O’S. Jewish billionaire and philanthropist David Rubenstein has reportedly agreed to purchase his hometown Baltimore Orioles for $1.7 billion. The Orioles had the best record in the American League in 2023, boast baseball’s top farm system and now have one of the richest owners.
BEHIND THE SCENES. Last week, we reported on Robert Kraft’s forthcoming Super Bowl ad about antisemitism. Now we have more information about what the commercial will look like: The Canadian Jewish News spoke to a Toronto rabbi who appears in the ad, which was filmed at his synagogue on Jan. 17.
COLD MEDAL. Remember that hockey tournament Israel was supposed to host, then got temporarily banned from? Turns out revenge is a dish best served on ice: Israel won a gold medal at the competition, earning a promotion to a higher division at next year’s tourney.
LOOK WHO’S BACK. Two-time curse-breaking front office whiz Theo Epstein is joining Fenway Sports Group — the group that owns the Boston Red Sox, Liverpool, the Pittsburgh Penguins and other sports ventures — as a part owner and senior advisor. Epstein served as general manager of the Red Sox from 2003-2011, helping Boston win its first World Series in 86 years in 2004.
MOVING ON UP. MLB Network unveiled this year’s top 10 third basemen this week, and Houston Astros star Alex Bregman slotted in at No. 5, an improvement from his No. 6 ranking last year. Bregman joins pitcher Max Fried and second baseman Zack Gelof among Jewish players ranked in the top 10 for their positions. Fried and Gelof were both ranked ninth.
DC-BOUND. Team Israel pitcher Richard Bleier signed a minor league contract with the Washington Nationals, meaning he is likely to begin the season at Triple A. Bleier, an eight-year MLB veteran, played for the Red Sox last season before being released in August.
All on the same team
The Foundation to Combat Antisemitism convened a meeting with commissioners of the major sports leagues to discuss antisemitism. (Courtesy of the Foundation to Combat Antisemitism)
Last week, Robert Kraft’s Foundation to Combat Antisemitism convened the commissioners of all the major sports leagues, “to discuss the rise of Jewish hate and all hate across the nation, and opportunities to combat it using sports as a platform,” according to a press release.
The meeting was attended by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, Jewish NBA boss Adam Silver, WNBA commish Cathy Engelbert, MLB’s Rob Manfred, Jewish NHL commish Gary Bettman, Jewish National Women’s Soccer League chief Jessica Berman, Jewish MLS commissioner Don Garber and NASCAR president Steve Phelps.
The commissioners heard from a number of experts on antisemitism and other forms of hatred, including State Department antisemitism envoy Deborah Lipstadt and ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt.
“In today’s world, we have seen hate manifest itself in more ways than one, in ways that have brought divisiveness and ugliness to communities across our nation,” Kraft said in a statement. “As leaders in the sports community, we are uniquely suited to tackle this fight through our platforms. Sports bring people together in a way that nothing else can — to root for one team, and one cause.”
Jews in sports to watch this weekend (all times ET)
🏒 IN HOCKEY…
It’s NHL All-Star weekend, and Vancouver Canucks captain Quinn Hughes will be participating in the All-Star game and the skills competitions. He and his brother Jack are co-captaining one of the four teams, but Jack will not play due to injury. Check out the weekend’s full schedule here. In the PWHL, Abbey Levy and PWHL New York play Ottawa Sunday at 1 p.m., while Kaleigh Fratkin, Aerin Frankel and Boston host Montreal Sunday at 3:30 p.m.
🏀 IN BASKETBALL…
Deni Avdija and the Washington Wizards host the Miami Heat today at 7 p.m., and the Phoenix Suns Sunday at 3:30 p.m. Domantas Sabonis, who is converting to Judaism, and the Sacramento Kings face the Indiaiana Pacers tonight at 7:30 p.m. and the Chicago Bulls Saturday at 8 p.m. In the G League, Ryan Turell and the Motor City Cruise take on the Birmingham Squadron Saturday at 8 p.m. and again Sunday at 5 p.m. Amari Bailey and the Greensboro Swarm host the Windy City Bulls tonight at 7 p.m.
⛳️ IN GOLF…
Max Homa is competing at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am this weekend in California.
⚽️ IN SOCCER…
Matt Turner and Nottingham Forest host Bournemouth Sunday at 9 a.m.
Have a great weekend!
Thanks for reading — we’ll catch you next week!