Beth David Synagogue’s second-Saturday-of-the-month Luncheon Speaker Series will feature Professor Bill Simons on February 11. A featured columnist for The Reporter since 2020, Simons will present on “Jews, Dodgers and Brooklyn: Before the Diaspora.” Morning services will begin at 9:30 am, with the talk and luncheon following. The services and the luncheon are open to the community.
Simons will focus on the “special relationship” 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 said. “Arguably, no baseball team ever forged a closer relationship with Jewish fans than did the Dodgers during their Brooklyn years. In other New York City boroughs, the Yankees and Giants had their Jewish adherents, as did Major League Baseball teams in other cities, but, in Brooklyn, the Dodgers drilled deep into the social fabric.”
Simons is a native of Lynn, MA. He 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, as well as the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Service.
“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,” in “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!”