Pray ‘n Play

In this picture from a  May post on his Twitter account (@bcsolomon), Ben C. Solomon (right) is shown with Gordon, an ambulance driver Solomon met during his coverage of the Ebola crisis for the New York Times.  

By Ellen Futterman

Pray ‘n Play

This is a story about making lemonade out of lemons, though it also highlights a lack of awareness — albeit unwittingly — of Jewish holidays when setting up some events.

It seems the Cardinals scheduled a College Night at Busch Stadium for Tuesday, Sept. 22, which is Kol Nidre, the eve of Yom Kippur, considered by many to be the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. That precluded observant (and semi-observant) Jewish students from attending the night, which for $15 offers a ticket to see the Cards play the Cincinnati Reds and an exclusive ’80s-themed Cardinals long-sleeved T-shirt designed by STL Style.

In response to the scheduling conflict, Chabad on Campus at Washington University contacted the Cardinals and  organized an alternate Jewish College Night for Thursday, Sept. 24 when the Cards play the Milwaukee Brewers. At that game, students will honor the 50-year anniversary of Jewish ballplayer Sandy Koufax’s decision not to pitch in Game 1 of the 1965 World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur (see related story on Page One). 

Ron Watermon, vice president of communications for the Cardinals, couldn’t have been more apologetic about what he called “an unfortunate oversight” in scheduling the College Night on Kol Nidre.

ADVERTISEMENT
New Mt. Sinai Cemetery advertisement

“This is the third College Night we have done this season,” said Watermon, explaining that the first two took place in April. “Candidly speaking, we do have  games on holidays like Easter, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur. That said, it’s very important to us to be welcoming to fans of all faiths and we strive to do just that. We’ve had a Jewish Community Night at the ballpark and Christian Family Day. Frankly, we are out there working on getting fans to come to the game.

“We are sorry if we offended anybody. That certainly wasn’t our intent.”

Undaunted by the issue, Rabbi Hershey Novack of Chabad on Campus secured 50 tickets from the Cardinals to make available to Jewish students, at $10 each, for the Sept. 24 game on a first-come, first-served basis. 

In an article touting the commemorative Sandy Koufax night written for the Chabad website at chabad.org/news, Novack noted that the overwhelming majority of area college students are not Jewish, “so let the Cardinals sell them tickets.” He and the students at Chabad were more focused on paying homage to Koufax’s decision not to pitch on the holiest of Jewish holidays in Game 1 of the ’65 series.

Koufax, who played for the Los Angeles Dodgers, went on to pitch in Games 2, 5 and 7, and was pivotal in the Dodgers beating the Minnesota Twins to become World Series champs. Koufax was also named Most Valuable Player of the series. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.

Oh, and the other bonus about the Sept. 24 date as Watermon pointed out: Jewish college students will be able to enjoy kosher hot dogs and other treats from Kohn’s in the ballpark. The kosher food stand will, of course, be closed on Kol Nidre, though a kosher-style one will take its place that night, like it does during games that take place on Shabbat.

Out of Africa—for now

Imagine your son tells you he will be more than 5,000 miles away for an extended period, covering the Ebola crisis for his newspaper. What Jewish mother, or father — or for that matter, what parent of any faith — wouldn’t worry?

“It was terrifying,” says Eileen Solomon of Olivette, recalling when she and her husband, Rick, learned from their son, Ben C. Solomon, that he would be covering the Ebola crisis in West Africa as videographer and journalist for the New York Times. 

“He assured me it was quite a difficult disease to catch if you take the right precautions,” Eileen added. “But I asked him to stay in close touch, which he is pretty good about when he is in dangerous situations.”

Those situations over the past five years include covering wars and international incidents in the far reaches ofLibya, Turkey, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Russia, to name a few. 

But for his work on Ebola, Solomon was part of the New York Times team that won the Pulitzer Prize in April for International Reporting for their coverage. Solomon, 27, also received the 2014 George Polk Award for health reporting, and is nominated for a News and Documentary Emmy Award for Outstanding Coverage of a Breaking News Story in a News Magazine.

One of Solomon’s videos detailed how only 15 ambulance teams were available in a Liberian city of nearly 1.5 million people, where hundreds of new Ebola cases were reported each week. Another, shot in Sierra Leone, focused on a group of young men who took on the dirtiest work of the Ebola outbreak: finding and burying the dead.

On Friday, Sept. 25, Solomon, who graduated from Ladue Horton Watkins High School in 2006, will be the keynote speaker at a 7:30 a.m. breakfast at the Frontenac Hilton hosted by the Ladue Education Foundation. Tickets, at $50 each, are available at laduefoundation.org.

Solomon, it turns out, comes from journalism stock. His mother was a Channel 4 news producer and executive producer for years and is now a tenured journalism professor at Webster University, where she has worked for 21 years. His father, now retired, started out as a cameraman for a TV station in Peoria, Ill., where he grew up. Older brother Alexander works for an advertising agency in Chicago.

“It was beshert,” said Eileen, referring to Ben’s decision to pursue a career in journalistic videography. “He has been involved in video production since he was 12.”

Eileen and Rick Solomon, who are members of Bais Abraham, are extremely proud of both their sons. Eileen recalled the Friday afternoon some months ago when Ben called and asked if his father was at home. “I told him no,” said Eileen. “So he said in a voice that was very quiet and serious — and he is not a quiet guy —  ‘OK, I’ll tell you. I think I won a Pulitzer.’

“He was in Sierra Leone, where the Internet was spotty,” she continued. “He had been getting emails but wasn’t able to respond. Finally, (the Times) sent him an email that said, ‘Urgent, call immediately.’ When he told me he had won, I was speechless.”

Currently an international correspondent for the New York Times in Nairobi, Solomon will be returning there not long after he speaks at the breakfast — and has time to visit with his family. And what else will he be doing in St. Louis?

“He has to renew his driver’s license,” his mother reported matter-of-factly. 

You covered it, we cover it!

The Jewish Light would like to publish a gallery of pictures from inside and outside our readers’ sukkahs, so please email your photos to [email protected] and be sure to include your name, municipality and a daytime phone number where we can reach you if need be.

Sign up for Your Morning Light