Ryan Braun - Jewish Heritage

Jewish Heritage

Braun's father Joe, most of whose side of the family was murdered by the Nazis in the Holocaust, was born in Israel. His father immigrated to the United States at age seven. His father is Jewish and his mother Diane is Catholic.

Braun said "I am Jewish", and "I'm extremely proud to be a role model for young Jewish kids." "It's something I'm really proud of. But I don't want to make it into something more than what it is. I didn't have a Bar Mitzvah.... I didn't celebrate the holidays." He reiterated: "It's something that draws a lot of interest and something I take pride in."

Braun's nickname "The Hebrew Hammer", which was also a nickname for former All-Stars Al Rosen and Hank Greenberg, refers to his Jewish heritage. It is also the nickname of former teammate Gabe Kapler and references former Milwaukee star Hank Aaron (whose nickname was "Hammerin' Hank"), and the movie The Hebrew Hammer, starring Adam Goldberg.

Braun is one of the highest-drafted Jewish ballplayers in the history of professional baseball. The New York Yankees made Ron Blomberg the number one pick in the 1967 draft. Braun was considered the best Jewish minor league baseball prospect in 2006, and became major league baseball's first Jewish Rookie of the Year the following season. In each of 2007 and 2008, Braun hit more home runs (34 and 37) than all but 3 of the top 10 career Jewish home run hitters had hit in their best seasons. Only Hank Greenberg (58), Shawn Green (49), and Al Rosen (43) hit more in a single year. Through the 2012 season, he was 2nd on the all-time career list in batting average (behind Hank Greenberg), tied for 3rd in home runs (with Sid Gordon; behind Hank Greenberg and Shawn Green), 7th on the RBI list (behind Al Rosen), and 8th in hits (behind Mike Lieberthal), for Jewish major leaguers.

"Braun" was, coincidentally, the family name of Sandy Koufax, until his mother remarried and he took his stepfather's name. "There's no connection that I know of", Braun said, "but it's kind of cool." In another coincidence, Braun lived for a time with his maternal grandfather in a house that previously belonged to Jewish Hall of Fame outfielder Hank Greenberg. Braun's grandfather has lived in the house for over 40 years.

In December 2007, Braun was the only Jewish athlete invited by President George W. Bush to the annual Hanukkah Dinner at the White House, where he talked baseball with the President. Braun was later featured in the 2008 Hank Greenberg 75th Anniversary edition of Jewish Major Leaguers Baseball Cards, published in affiliation with Fleer Trading Cards and the American Jewish Historical Society, commemorating the Jewish Major Leaguers from 1871 through 2008. He joined, among other Jewish major leaguers, Brad Ausmus, Youkilis, Ian Kinsler, Brian Horwitz, Gabe Kapler, Jason Marquis, Ike Davis, Jason Hirsh, John Grabow, Craig Breslow, Scott Feldman, and Scott Schoeneweis. Braun was one of three Jewish players in the 2008 All-Star Game, joining Kinsler and Youkilis, and one of three Jewish players on the Team USA 2009 World Baseball Classic team, joining Youkilis and Grabow. He and Feldman were voted the 2009 co-Jewish MVP by Jewish Major Leaguers, and he was voted the 2010 Jewish MVP as Breslow received the Most Valuable Jewish Pitcher honors. "There aren't too many Jewish athletes at the highest level", said Braun. "It's something that I certainly embrace."

Braun was inducted into the Southern California Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in January 2010.

The Jewish Daily Forward listed him as number five in the 2011 "Forward 50", its list of the 50 most significant American Jews.

In 2011, Braun became the fourth self-identifying Jewish player, and the first in nearly a half-century, to win the Most Valuable Player Award, after Greenberg (1935 and 1940), Rosen (1953), and Koufax (1963). In April 2012, Shalom Life ranked him Number 5 on its list of “the 50 most talented, intelligent, funny, and gorgeous Jewish men in the world."

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