On Monday, May 8, 2023, a special screening of Israel Swings for Gold was shown at Yeshiva University’s Wilf Campus. The screening was sponsored by the Yeshiva University Center for Israel Studies, the Rabbi Arthur Schneier Program for International Affairs, the Office of Student Life and the Philos Project and was attended by an audience of students and locals from the Washington Heights Jewish and Dominican American communities.
The exciting and inspirational film tells the story of the Israel National Baseball Team at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. With no media allowed in Tokyo’s Olympic Village and COVID restrictions at their height, the players recorded their own experiences, logging unexpected battles against anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. Experiencing triumphs and setbacks, the players find strength in their identity and forge new friendships on the Olympic diamond.
“Being able to screen this film about Israel – featuring Spanish subtitles produced for the occasion – with our friends at the Philos project and in Washington Heights, was a momentous occasion,” said Rabbi Dr. Stu Halpern, Senior Advisor to theProvost of Yeshiva University and Deputy Director of the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought. “Sports is a wonderful means of bridging faiths and language, cultures and communities, and we look forward to more joint programs together in the future.”
The event opened with introductory remarks by Yeshiva University President Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman who noted the unity between the Yeshiva and Dominican communities in Washington Heights, and by Dr. Sara Asher, Interim Dean of Undergraduate Students at Yeshiva University. Following the screening, a special panel discussing the film and the team took place featuring Dr. Jordy Alter, president of the Israel Association of Baseball; Eric Holtz, former head coach of the Israel Baseball National Team; Mitch Glasser, Israel National Baseball Team MVP; and Jeremy Newberger, producer of the film. Jesse Rojo, Director of Philos Latino, introduced the panel, applauding the film for its universal themes and its message of courage in the face of adversity.
Coach Holtz highlighted the determination of his players, commending their courage against all odds. “They had something inside them that wouldn’t accept average. They set their sights on what it took to be great…and they don’t stop.”
Mitch Glasser remarked on the surge of emotions that his team of mostly American olim experienced in representing their Jewish homeland for the first time. “It was surreal for them…[we] were representing a country some of them had barely even visisted before, but we all felt strongly connected to.”
“Baseball, our national pastime, has been brought to Israel by American immigrants, and struck roots,” said Dr. Steve Fine, Churgin Professor of Jewish History and Director, Yeshiva University Center for Israel Studies. “It is amazing to think of an Israeli baseball team, having learned to play kadur basis [baseball] myself in camp as a kid. What’s more, the Israeli and Dominican national teams met at the Tokyo Olympics, which became an event celebrated in Washington Heights, just blocks from YU.”