• Team EBSM

Choices: Part IV

John Moscot, Ryan Lavarnway, Josh Zeid & Corey Baker at the Dead Sea

Jewish Community

Ryan: I personally experienced anti-Semitism for the first time while playing for Team Israel, so there were some hardships involved, minor in comparison to the benefit we received from it obviously but, it wasn’t just the easy decision.

Anything you’d like to share from that experience?

After I announced I was playing for Team Israel for the first time, people said things like 'Oh, I didn’t know you were Jewish.' For the most part it wasn’t in my face or rude but the tone of voice, and questioning attitude, made me feel less-than. I didn’t think they deserved to have an opinion about my religion. I was the same person as before.

One teammate was actually more blatant. He said “If we were closer friends, I would feel the need to tell you that your beliefs are wrong and that you need to accept Jesus.”

My approach to dealing with it has been to respond with a questioning, 'What do you mean by that?' or 'Why does it matter to you?', and I have had good responses.

I know in my heart who I am, and I am proud to be who I am. I also have felt such a swelling of support from the worldwide Jewish community. Those things help me when I experience anti-Semitism.

What has claiming your heritage given you that you don't think you would have otherwise experienced?

Josh: I grew up religious. I was, and still am, very proud to be Jewish. I was also born in the United States, and am very proud to be an American citizen but, when I made the leap to become an Israeli citizen, I felt everything that I did that involved the sport that I loved, and my family, had more meaning. I wasn’t just working or playing for myself. My heritage was not just some afterthought. It was real.

A pride in being Jewish, a place in the Jewish community, and the opportunity to share my spiritual identity journey with people who may have similar experiences.

You just got inducted into the Southern California Jewish Hall of Fame. How does that award compare to your other baseball titles?

It’s a pretty cool honor. I didn’t know that I would ever make any hall of fame. The other athletes that are in there are ones I’ve looked up to, enjoyed watching, and tried to emulate, such as Shawn Green. He was my favorite Dodger growing up because he was the only Dodger that was Jewish. The back of my first baseball card said that I was 6’4” and 225 lbs., just like the back of his baseball card, even though neither of those numbers was correct for me.

I got to meet and speak to him, through that event, and he said those weren’t right for him either so that’s something that I have in common with him, and something that’s very cool, I’m honored by it.