The Atlanta Kosher Commission is organizing Kosher Day at a Braves game for the 18th year Sunday, May 6, but the afternoon game against the San Francisco Giants will likely be the last Kosher Day, at least in its current form.
Kosher Day has relied on generous sponsors for many years to cover the costs of running the community event and help raise money for educational and other projects, but that assistance is running out.
Lay volunteers led by Roberta Scher and Betty Minsk started the event around 1997 as a fun way to raise money for Jewish education. There are many Jewish baseball fans, and other teams, mostly in the Northeast, sell kosher food at their home parks.
The Atlanta volunteers talked with the Braves about having a kosher concession for a game or series of games, but the idea was complicated because all the concessions were taken. A vendor had to be persuaded to allow a kosher vendor to take over a stand for a game, which meant guaranteeing the usual income.
Volunteers trained to run the concessions at Turner Field; at one point more than 30 were involved. It was amusing watching doctors, lawyers and rabbis flipping burgers.
We needed to come in after the last nonkosher game, typically late Saturday night, and clean and kosherize (burn out) the stand for the next morning. One year the game went into extra innings, and we didn’t start kashering the stand until well after midnight.
Many years it took all night to complete the process because the kitchens required lots of cleaning before we could kasher them. I remember running out of charcoal one year and sending out volunteers to find more at 3 in the morning. They succeeded, but to this day I’m not sure what store they found open in downtown Atlanta.
We almost had a fire one year and activated the fire sprinklers during the kosherization because a buildup of fat in the oven began to burn.
The first few years were a huge success. Many organizations participated, the turnout was large, and much money was raised. But the volunteer group, which had to put weeks and weeks of work into the event each year, moved on to other things, and no one stepped up to the plate to pinch-hit. As a result, we had a year without a Kosher Day.
The AKC got multiple calls that year asking about Kosher Day. We were so disappointed because the event was so much fun.
The commission, a small organization that helps others seeking kosher food at venues, had not run the event but had been at all the meetings and had arranged the kosherization. We decided to undertake the event with whichever organizations wanted to join us.
That was 17 years ago. We have drawn 300 to 600 people most years and have raised thousands of dollars for partner organizations and the AKC.
One special aspect of Kosher Day is that it is one of the few truly pluralistic Jewish events in Atlanta. Groups across the Jewish spectrum were partners, including the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, the Atlanta Scholars Kollel, the Marcus JCC, several Chabads, the Consulate General of Israel, the Hebrew Order of David, Hadassah, all the day schools, and Reform, Conservative, Orthodox and Traditional congregations.
At Turner Field we had a picnic area and musical entertainment. Retired Braves signed autographs, and Homer the mascot stopped by. We also held Mincha services.
Kosher Day was also good for the Braves, who usually won those games.
We would like to thank the community for the past support. The AKC hopes that another organization will take up the event, and we’re prepared to help.
Rabbi Reuven Stein is the director of supervision for the Atlanta Kosher Commission.