When you're a role model, especially one that's...there aren't too many others in the same field, it adds to, I think, your connection to what you're representing, and for me it's Judaism.
For the past fifteen years, Shawn Green has been one of baseball's most dominant left-handed hitters. But he is likely to be described first as a Jewish athlete. Green's decision to sit-out a game in observance of the Jewish day of atonement, Yom Kippur, cast him into the spotlight for his religious beliefs. Green reflected recently on the role of his Jewish identity, during batting practice before a game against the Nationals in Washington D.C.
Welcome to Voices on Antisemitism, a free podcast series of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. I'm Daniel Greene. Every other week, we invite a guest to reflect about the many ways that antisemitism and hatred influence our world today. Here's New York Mets right fielder, Shawn Green.
Growing up I wasn't raised in a religious household, and without a doubt it makes me more Jewish to be in the position that I'm in. I wouldn't call it a burden. I would say I learned a lot about my culture and my heritage playing in the major leagues.
There's been two conflicts with Yom Kippur and games, and that was in 2001, when I was with the Dodgers and I sat out, which is one game; and then in 2004 in the heat of the pennant race against the team right behind us, there was a night game and a day game. And, you know, for me that was a tough decision. I really had to think about it quite a bit. And I decided to play one game and sit the next. And I felt like missing a game definitely showed my commitment to my religion, but at the same time I think everybody interprets and observes different holidays in their own way.
In reality, any way I would've handled it would've been hypocritical in some way. 'Cause, you know, to play both games would be hypocritical because I am Jewish, and I'm trying to represent Jewish athletes, and to do what I did, kind of, is walking the fence. So there's really no right answer, and that's kind of when I came to the decision that I just had to make myself feel good about the decision at the end of the day.
You know, the same advice I guess that Sandy Koufax gave me I would give to kids who want to know how to handle the different commitments that Judaism would bring, and that is: everybody's different, everybody has different goals in their life, and you got to look inside and figure out what works best for you.
Voices on Antisemitism is a free podcast series of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Join us every other week to hear a new perspective on the continuing threat of antisemitism in our world today. To contribute your thoughts to our series, please call 888-70USHMM, or visit our Web site at www.ushmm.org. At that site, you can also listen to Voices on Genocide Prevention, a podcast series on contemporary genocide.