Atlanta Rabbis World Series’ Wagers Pay-Off

Atlanta Rabbis World Series’ Wagers Pay-Off

Local charities gain from wagers made with Houston rabbis.

Local synagogue wager friendly fun during the 2021 World Series championship.
Local synagogue wager friendly fun during the 2021 World Series championship.

Judaism, apparently, doesn’t specifically forbid gambling. That’s a good thing for several Atlanta rabbis who recently won bets from colleagues in Houston after the Atlanta Braves clinched the World Series.

“Large wagers are frowned upon” in Judaism, states Rabbi Adam Starr of Congregation Ohr HaTorah. “And if a person is a professional gambler, he or she is not allowed to become a witness.” But Starr believes the wager he made with Rabbi Barry Gelman of the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center of Houston doesn’t fall into that category.

“Obviously, this isn’t about the betting or the wager,” Starr said of the agreement he made with Gelman, in which the losing side gifts a “Jewish book of interest” to the winner. “This is what rabbis want to promote. Even if one loses, he feels good,” he noted, although the exact book he will receive from Gelman had not yet been discussed.

Congregation Ohr HaTorah Rabbi Adam Starr organized mincha/maariv services outside Truist Park.

Starr reached out to Gelman in a text the afternoon before Game 1 of the World Series, which the Braves won in six games. And he was not the only Atlanta rabbi to reap the benefits of the world championship.

“When the Astros and the Braves made it into the World Series, I reached out to Rabbi Steve Gross of the Houston Congregation for Reform Judaism,” said Rabbi Larry Sernovitz of Temple Kol Emeth. The two agreed on three parts to the wager. The loser would send treats from their city to the winner, would make a donation to an Atlanta area charity, and the loser would wear a jersey from the winning team at a Shabbat service.

“That was what scared me the most,” Sernovitz said of the wager’s third clause. Fortunately for Sernovitz, he won’t need to find an Astros jersey. For Gross, finding a Braves jersey may present more of a challenge since they are in high demand. “I ordered him a Freddie Freeman jersey but it won’t be ready until January,” said Sernovitz, referring to the Braves slugger. For Gross, an Atlanta World Series t-shirt will suffice for now.

Temple Kol Emeth, meanwhile, is expecting well-known Houston delicacies of barbecue brisket and pecan pie from Gelman.

A former Houstonian, Temple Sinai Rabbi Ron Segal made his wager with a long-time colleague and friend in Houston

Similarly, Temple Sinai Rabbi Ron Segal requested Texas barbecue food or sauces, as well as bagels and baked goods from specific shops in Houston. In a five-minute video posted on Temple Sinai’s website, Segal wrapped up the terms of the wager he had made with long-time friend Rabbi Oren Hayon of Houston’s Congregation Emanu El.

Segal was able to be specific about what he wanted to come in the basket of Houston treats because both he, the Temple’s associate executive director and its communications director are former Houstonians.

The second part of the wager between Segal and Hayon focused on “tzedakah.” In the video, Segal said he wanted Hayon’s contribution to go to the Community Assistance Center in Sandy Springs, which provides emergency financial assistance for both Sandy Springs and Dunwoody residents who need help paying bills. Segal pointed out that the Center has a “tremendous food pantry,” a thrift shop and language classes for job training. The Center was started by faith institutions, including Temple Sinai.

A “beautiful relationship” was created between Jews in Atlanta and in Houston, said Temple Kol Emeth Rabbi Larry Sernovitz

“We are disappointed” in the outcome of the World Series, said Hayon, “but we’re happy to send your winnings.”

Sernovitz pointed out that both the Braves and Astros have Jewish players on their rosters. The wagers, he added, resulted in a “beautiful relationship between Jews in Houston and Jews in Atlanta.”

The games also brought together a small group of Jews for prayer at the Atlanta Braves Truist Park. Before the Oct. 31 game, Starr said members of his congregation, congregants from Beth Jacob and some Jews from out of town gathered for mincha/maariv services outside the stadium.

The services enabled one participant to say kaddish, he said, noting that the minyan only focused on the regular prayers. “I personally don’t believe in praying for a team,” he said.

Fortunately, the Braves didn’t need it.

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