Jews are no strangers at baseball games, especially around here. But the fifth annual Jewish Heritage Night at the Phillies on Aug. 7 gave members of the tribe an extra excuse to flaunt their pride.
Before the game, martial artists, musicians and Israeli folk dancers invited passersby to join them just outside Citizens Bank Park in South Philly.
Inside the stadium, Phillies staff helped keep up the ruach by playing klezmer music between innings.
A group of young adults even took to the field to dance Hava Nagila around the Philly Phanatic, lifting him up in a chair as if he'd just become a Bar Mitzvah.
"Seeing the Phanatic do the hora, that's the best part," said Harrison Kramer, 25, a mortgage company analyst from Mount Laurel, N.J.
About 400 people purchased tickets through the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, which sponsored the event for the second consecutive year. About $2 of each of those tickets went back to Federation, to support its health, education, welfare and other programs.
Compared to last year's Jewish Heritage Night, which was interrupted by a massive storm, last week's sunny weather was a dream, said Pearl Stein, a retired school teacher who came with a group of fans from South Jersey in a "rickety school bus."
The game started off with a bang, with the Phils scoring three runs in the first inning. The bases didn't get much action after that, but at least pitcher Cole Hamels kept the Atlanta Braves at bay to wrap up the night, 3-0.
Several "phans" wore shirts displaying their affiliation with a local Jewish organization or a Hebrew variation of the Phillies insignia. The "smile cam" even caught a group of cheering students holding a sign for Kellman Brown Academy, a day school in Voorhees, N.J.
Sara Rosenbaum, 24, a real estate appraiser from the Graduate Hospital neighborhood of Center City, said she always makes sure to include Jewish Heritage Night when she purchases her annual package of six games, both for the pride and for the kosher food. With so many Jewish fans, Rosenbaum said, the stadium should have a kosher stand at every game.
So why do so many Jews seem to have such a strong affinity for baseball?
"Well, we do like hot dogs," joked 17-year-old Ilana Goldstein, a rising senior at Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy in Bryn Mawr who chaperoned a group of children from Ramah Day Camp. In addition to singing before the game, the campers had the honor of performing the national anthem.
Goldstein, of Elkins Park, said the experience felt homey. "It is nice to walk around and see your entire community."
Added fellow counselor Kyle Goldstein, 25, of no relation, the night promoted "the awesome Jewishness in the Philadelphia area."
Dave Gillis, a Germantown juggler who demonstrated his own variety of catching skills before the game, noted that famous Jewish players such as Sandy Koufax helped Jews feel more integrated in American life.
The game was the perfect Jewish-American welcome for Israel's deputy consul general Elad Strohmayer, who arrived here two days before to assume his new post.
Said Strohmayer, "Everyone finds a place in baseball."
Exponent intern Andrea Cantor contributed to this report.