Former Yankee, Elliott Maddox a bar mitzvah

| 22 Feb 2012 | 01:32

Ground-breaking African-American Jewish player shares special ceremony with 300 youths MILFORD — Former Major League Baseball player Elliott Maddox was called to the Torah on Monday, Aug. 9, 2010 at the NJY Camps in Milford, Pennsylvania, celebrating his bar mitzvah 35 years after his 1975 conversion to Judaism. For the last five years Maddox has run special clinics at the Ron Blomberg Baseball Camp, one of seventeen Total Specialty Camp programs being offered this year through the NJY Camps. When NJY Executive Director Len Robinson learned that Maddox had never had a bar mitzvah, he invited him to do so at the camp. “This bar mitzvah ties in with our mission and our Jewish heroes program,” explained Robinson. “Our Total Specialty Camp programs are run by Jews who have attained the highest levels of recognition in their fields. When campers leave our programs, we hope they are more proud of being Jewish, and that they want to lead a more participatory Jewish life. We’re a community — and we celebrate as a community. So of course we wanted to help Elliott Maddox fulfill his dream of becoming a Bar Mitzvah and we wanted our campers to celebrate with him.” Friendship dates from Yankee days Blomberg and Maddox, who met while both were playing for the New York Yankees, have remained close friends. “He’s a brother of mine and a teammate of mine,” said Blomberg, “and this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I would never have missed.” In 2004 both men were inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. During the bar mitzvah, Blomberg spoke briefly, giving the address usually reserved for the parents of the bar mitzvah celebrant. “I hope that when you turn 13,” Blomberg said, “you will remember this and be inspired by the fact that you saw a Major Leaguer’s Bar Mitzvah.” Maddox, whose MLB career spanned the decade from 1970-1980, also played for the New York Mets, as well as the Detroit Tigers, Washington Senators/Texas Rangers, and Baltimore Orioles. For Maddox, having a bar mitzvah at camp was an opportunity he could not pass up. “I’m a firm believer that when you reach one milestone or goal in life, the best thing you can do is set another so that you’re always striving for something else. I want the campers here to see that you’re never too old to fulfill a dream.” Maddox went on to say, “There are meaningful things that I wanted to do in my life but never had the chance. I was a pre-med student in college but I never pursued a medical degree. I thought about entering politics but never did so. With this bar mitzvah I was able to do one of the meaningful things that I didn’t get done earlier in my life. This was an opportunity for me to carry on the tradition that has passed through generations of Jewish history, and I’m a proud participant in that chain.” The 300 youths attending the Bar Mitzvah included campers from four of the divisions at Cedar Lake Camp, which serves students entering grades 7-9, as well as campers enrolled this week in the Ron Blomberg Baseball Camp. In total, approximately 4000 campers participate in NJY Camp programs each summer, including Jewish campers from Venezuela, Panama, and Israel. Created in 1920, NJY Camps is the largest Jewish summer camp organization in North America, operating 8 distinct camps on two 1,200+ acre sites in the Pocono Mountains.