The Braves already have one Jewish player in pitcher Max Field, who started the season opener. Some fans have noticed that another player on the team may be Jewish, as Cristian Pache wears a gold Star of David around his neck.
While Pache was not willing to discuss his private life, according to the Braves, the team spokesman was willing to confirm for the AJT that he wears it for his mother, who is Jewish.
According to an interview with the Orlando Sentinel, done before joining the MLB, Pache said he was the second of three children of a factory worker and homemaker.
Despite his choice of jewelry, Pache is a practicing Christian, according to his Instagram. The AJT was not able to confirm much else about his religious background, but he and his family are from the Dominican Republic, where there is a long Jewish history going back to the 13th century.
The AJT spoke with Dr. Yehonatan Elazar-DeMota, originally from Miami, who leads Beth Midrash Eleazar, a Sephardi education center in the Caribbean. He’s an expert on the history of Jews in the Caribbean as well as the leader of two beth midrash schools in the Dominican Republic.
Pache was born in Santo Domingo, where a majority of the Dominican Republic’s Jewish population have historically lived. The city is part of the greater Jewish history in the Dominican Republic. “Sephardic Jews arrived during the Inquisition, during the colonial period, and established themselves in the capitol and the port,” Elazar-DeMota said.
Records in the late 19th century show a Rabbi Raphael in Santo Domingo leading a Sephardic congregation in the region. Most of these families that were part of this community are buried in a now-neutral ceremony, where Jews are buried on the left where there are no crosses, but some have Jewish markings, Elazar-DeMota said.
After Rabbi Raphael passed away, leaving the Jewish community without a leader, the community was led by Rabbi Henry Zvi Ucko. He was a refugee from the Nazis, part of the tens of thousands of visas offered with accompanying plots of land by Dominican Dictator Rafael Trujillo to those fleeing the Holocaust. Though Elazar-DeMota said only about 600 took the offer.
Ucko was Ashkenazi, but he helped lead the Sephardi community and organized a congregation in Santo Domingo.
While Pache may not practice the faith, the connection to the Jewish history of Santo Domingo, and the larger Dominican Republic, now have a place on the Atlanta Braves.