O’Hara Township’s Izzy Zober is using her arm to pull Israel closer. The 12-year-old softball phenom will again represent the Jewish state at this summer’s European Massimo Romeo Youth Tournament.
Held in Collecchio, Italy, EMRYT is part of the World Baseball Softball Confederation Europe and features squads from Austria, Czechia, Croatia, Spain and other countries.
Representing Team Israel is “awesome,” Zober told the Chronicle. She said she feels a lot of pride knowing “the people of Israel get to watch me play on this team and represent them on an international stage.”
Zober, who plans on pitching, hitting and playing first base, isn’t a stranger to donning blue, white and an emblazoned Star of David across her jersey. Last summer, she also participated in the Italian-based competition.
Returning this year will be “twice as fun,” she said. “I’ll get to see new teams and new kids on our Israeli team.”
Zober is a dual citizen of the U.S. and Israel. Her father, Yarone Zober, was born in the Jewish state and spent his early years there.
Izzy’s inclusion on the team has “brought us much closer to Israel,” he said.
During one of her recent trips there, she invited her cousins from Pittsburgh to join. It was their first trip to Israel.
Representing Israel athletically or helping others experience the country are critical ways to share Israel’s story, Yarone Zober said: “It’s a tough time for so many Jews with the way Israel is portrayed.”
Zober is confident his daughter will represent the country well but said a softball diamond is far different from a diplomatic venue.
“Once you’re on a softball field, everyone tends to respect one another,” he said.
Suiting up against athletes from other countries bridges divides, he continued: “It personalizes it and makes it harder to dislike the group that individual represents.”
The number represents findings from interviews conducted between 2013-2014 of 53,100 people from across 101 countries about loyalty, power, the Holocaust and globalization.
ADL data also indicates that while 15% of U.S. residents polled believe “Jews have too much power in international financial markets,” the number rose to 32% among Italian respondents. Similarly, when asked whether Jews have “too much power in the business world,” 23% of Canadians surveyed said “yes.” The number jumped to 69% among Hungarians.
Izzy said that representing Israel is a chance to show the world that softball is a fun, accessible game and, though the rules slightly differ depending on locale, “anyone can play if they want to.”
Her father agreed and said he’s eager to watch Izzy compete in Italy, as well as join Team Israel in the Czech Republic at the beginning of August for an 18U biennial tournament.
Whether she makes it onto the field in Prague is questionable, he said, but being there and learning from older athletes with similar aims should prove beneficial.
It’s very easy today for people to “shrink away” from their Jewish heritage, but there’s a way to “combine Judaism and Israel during this really important time,” he said. Whether it’s through “sports, arts or something people really love to do, that’s something folks can be inspired by.”
Zober said he hopes his message resonates.
In fact, long before his daughter dominated diamonds, Zober implored Chronicle readers to recognize the value of the Jewish state. In 1985, as a 10-year-old living in Israel, he filed reports with the Chronicle’s “Kids Page.” Zober’s writings concerned fads, holidays and celebrities in Israel.
Being able to travel to Italy with his wife, Tiffany Zober, and watching their daughter represent the Jewish state is basically a grand slam, he explained.
“I’m so proud of her and what she’s accomplishing on the field but also what she’s doing for Israel,” he said. “This activity has brought Israel into her life in a deeper and more personal way.” PJC
Adam Reinherz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.