Sports vs. music (Jewish League)

When I was growing up, “Jewish music” was like  “Jewish cars.”   It diidn’t mean a thing.

On second thought, “Jewish cars” did mean something.  It meant, for example, “The Boat” — an Olds 98 owned by my friend Mark’s father.  The Boat had electric windows and was oceanic.  Mark was richer than the rest of us, I think.  He lived in a fancy part of town and his doorbell lit up.)

Re: Jewish music . . .

I learned about that at the house of another high school friend, Shelly Gordon.  His parents knew Israeli and Yiddish music, cold. Shelly’s parents were Labor Zionists (Poale Zion).  They seemed to know every classic Israeli tune and how to dance and/or sing it.  The family also attended a Yiddish camp in Michigan.  (Farband.)

The parents didn’t know from sports, which was odd because Shelly turned into a star athlete.  He played tennis for Ohio State and became a tennis pro in Israel. He never took a private tennis lesson.

Shelly didn’t care about Jewish music; he cared about the Cleveland Browns, Ohio State Buckeyes and Cleveland Indians.  In Israel he logs on — to this day — at about 3 a.m. to catch Cleveland sports scores on the Internet.  He has a yarmulke that reads “Cleveland Cavaliers.”

Shelly’s dad, Sanford (the man who knew all the Hebrew tunes), never played sports.  In fact Mr. Gordon was so oblivious to sports he didn’t even sign Shelly up for Little League.  Mr. Gordon was not an immigrant or DP (Displaced Person) either; he was a NASA scientist and full-time Zionist.  Baseball meant nothing to Israelis, so it meant nothing to Mr. Gordon.

Shelly went to a Zionist camp in Michigan.  (Habonim.)

Shelly has been a Jerusalem tennis pro for more than 30 years.  He still doesn’t know from Jewish music.


About the Author
Bert Stratton is a musician and landlord in Cleveland, Ohio. He is an occasional contributor to the New York Times, Jerusalem Post, Cleveland Plain Dealer and City Journal. Byliner chose his essay "The Landlord's Tale" as one of the best magazine articles of 2012. He blogs at "Klezmer Guy: Real Music & Real Estate."