BD luncheon on Feb. 11 to feature Bill Simons

On February 11, Beth David Synagogue’s second-Saturday-of-the-month Luncheon Speaker Series will feature Professor Bill Simons. Morning services begin at 9:30 am, with the talk and luncheon following; all are open to the community. A featured columnist for The Reporter since 2020, Simons will present on “Jews, Dodgers and Brooklyn: Before the Diaspora.” 

Simons will focus on “the unique connection” that existed between Brooklyn’s large Jewish community and the Dodgers baseball team before its departure for Los Angeles. In addition to offering information about a specific time and place in American history, Simons promises that the story is filled with humor and verve. “A special relationship connected the Dodgers and Brooklyn Jews,” Simons pointed out. “Arguably, no baseball team ever forged a closer relationship with Jewish fans than did the Dodgers during their Brooklyn years, where they were drilled deep into the social fabric. The Dodgers provided Brooklyn’s soundtrack. In her Brooklyn youth, retired SUNY historian Judy Wishnia remembers that you could walk by open windows, go into stores and take cabs without missing any of Red Barber’s Dodgers radio broadcasts!”

A native of Lynn, MA, Simons earned his doctor of arts degree from Carnegie Mellon, with a specialization in American history. As the former chairman of the SUNY-Oneonta History Department, he continues teaching there as professor emeritus, with courses that include “Athletics, Society, and Sports.” He is the recipient of The Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, the highest such award in the SUNY system. Simons also served for 16 years as president of the Oneonta chapter of United University Professions and is the recipient of the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Service. He and his wife Nancy reside in Oneonta, and have four grandchildren.

Simons indicated that his passion for baseball began in his youth. “Growing up, I developed my interest in baseball,” Simons said, “by watching games coached by my dad, Shep. His stories about his superhero, Hank Greenberg, made me appreciate the important symbolic role sport holds for Jewish Americans.” 

Simons is the co-director of the Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American History, an annual academic conference on the national pastime co-sponsored by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and SUNY Oneonta. He has served as editor and contributor to 12 baseball anthologies published by McFarland Press. His articles, reviews and essays have appeared in many journals and books, and include “Addressing Antisemitism and Racism in Statuary and Text: A Pedagogical Approach,” Israel Journal of Israel Foreign Affairs,” “Jackie Robinson and the American Mind: Media Images of the Reintegration of Baseball,” “From Jack Johnson to LeBron James: Sports, Media, and the Color Line,” “Greenberg at the Bat: A Twenty-first Century Jewish Moonlight Graham,” “Baseball and American Culture: A Seminar” and “Baseball in the Classroom: Essays on Teaching the National Pastime.” In 2021, he received the American Jewish Press Association First Place Award for Excellence in Writing About Sports.

“As a longtime speaker for the New York Council for the Humanities,” organizers said, “Professor Simons has delivered invited lectures in more colleges, libraries, museums and community groups than we can count. We are honored to have him add Beth David Synagogue to that list, and are certain that the program will be a highlight of our luncheon series!”

Since the no-charge monthly series’ continuation depends on the generosity of contributors, Beth David welcomes and appreciates donations to the Luncheon Fund to keep the program going. Donations as well as sponsorships can be made in honor of or in memory of someone, or to mark a special occasion. Those wishing an acknowledgment to be sent to the person being honored, or to the family of someone being remembered, can indicate that, along with the necessary information. Donations can be sent to Beth David Synagogue, 39 Riverside Dr., Binghamton, NY 13905, Attention: Luncheon Fund.