Houston Jewish Herald-Voice via JTA — A month after hoisting the World Series trophy at Minute Maid Park, Alex Bregman was at Congregation Beth Yeshurun in Houston, holding up a candle to lead the Hanukkah blessing.
On the fourth night of the holiday, the Astros star third baseman sat down with hundreds of congregants and talked about a range of topics, from his bar mitzvah speech to his favorite Hanukkah gifts, his not-yet-kosher line of beef and his son’s potential bar mitzvah.
The evening began with Bregman joining his wife, Reagan, and newborn son, Knox, at the front of the sanctuary to light the menorah candles with Beth Yeshurun Rabbis Sarah Fort and Steven Morgen, who concluded the blessing with the words, “Play Ball.”
The special ceremony rekindled Alex’s own childhood memories.
“We’d go to Temple Albert in Albuquerque, New Mexico, then come home, have my cousins over, light the menorah and open presents,” Bregman said. “It was mostly just family time for us, but it was always a blast.
“My mom used to make latkes and we still use her recipe. She actually sent it to Reagan, and I think Reagan can make better latkes than my mom, but don’t tell her that.”
Bregman then shared his thoughts with Ari Alexander of KPRC in Houston during a more than hour-long question-and-answer session.
The plan was drawn up by many in the congregation, including Beth Yeshurun President David Stein and President Lori Herzog.
“We put everything together in eight days,” Herzog said. “It was a Hanukkah miracle.”
Bregman shared his 2007 bar mitzvah speech, which focused on using his love of baseball to make a difference in the world.
“I hope I was able to match a little bit of the 13-year-old that wanted me to be,” Bregman said. “He would probably say you still have a lot of work to do and keep going.”
At 28, Bregman, who was drafted by the Astros in the first round of the 2015 MLB Draft, has already accomplished more than most players. he’s a two-time world champion and two-time all-star.
During the Q&A, she answered questions submitted by audience members, including one about her favorite Hanukkah gift growing up.
“When I got a little older, it was baseball cards and a Mark McGwire baseball card. When I was younger, it was definitely Lego.
“One year during Hanukkah, our house was broken into and robbed. “The only room they didn’t take was mine because my Legos were all over the floor.”
Decades removed from the Legos, Bregman is now a national star and taking his chance as a Jewish role model seriously.
“In this position, you have a platform and you can reach a lot of people,” Bregman said. “I want Jewish kids who dream of playing baseball to believe they can play in the big leagues and make their dreams come true, too.”
Bregman has stated that he has not experienced anti-Semitism during his baseball journey.
“Growing up, my mom and dad always told me to stand up for what you believe in and speak up for it,” she said. “I want to stand up for what’s right and stand up to hate.
“Personally, I think we all need a little more cohesion in the world and we need to be kinder to each other.”
After the question-and-answer session, Stein presented the Astros star with several gifts from Beth Yeshurun, including an Astros kippah, menorah, candles, gelt and an autographed baseball from Rabbis Brian Strauss, Stephen Morgen and Sarah Fort.
Beth Yeshurun also had gifts for Knox, including a plush dreidel and a “Future Beth Yeshurun Day School Graduate.” Alex and Knox were also presented with Beth Yeshurun Lifetime Memberships.
“Alex and his family truly exemplify living Jewish values and serve as incredible role models for all of us,” Stein told JHV.
“We knew we would have a great crowd, and everyone who attended left our sanctuary with feelings of great happiness and pride.”
Beth Yeshurun also presented a $5,000 check to Bregman’s charity, Bregman Cares, which focuses on autism awareness, food insecurity and a variety of other local causes.
“Alex is doing tzedakah and tikkun olam mitzvah through his Bregman Cares Foundation,” Stein said. “He is a shining star, not only for Houston, but for the Jewish community.”
At the end of the evening, Bregman threw a curve ball by asking for the microphone and offering to take pictures with all the kids in attendance, which led to photos, autographs and lots of high fives.
“It was a really fun night,” Bregman said. “Hopefully we can win a few more World Series and celebrate more Hanukkahs together.”