Rabbi David Spinrad had a realization during the COVID-19 pandemic. Between his responsibilities to his family and to his synagogue, Beth El Hebrew Congregation in Alexandria, Spinrad found he had little time for hobbies. “I had literally no outside interests,” he wrote in the Beth El Bulletin.
Around the same time, he began hearing others talk about how sports cards were becoming popular, and that the pandemic had caused people to purchase and collect them again.
And so Spinrad embraced his childhood hobby of card collecting once more. Now, he’s starting a card collecting club at Beth El Hebrew Congregation in hopes of bringing other collectors together and encouraging younger congregants to develop an interest in the hobby.
“It’s interesting to me that COVID, even with all the hardships we went through, also opened us up to some really beautiful conversations about slowing down, and making some space to enjoy life and what really matters,” Spinrad said in an interview. “I’m honored to be a rabbi and blessed to be part of a family, but I realized I had lost something in my life by not making time for hobbies.”
An avid card collector as a child, he fell out of the hobby as he got older. Spinrad said that his collection would come with his family whenever they moved, though it often sat in storage collecting dust. He estimated that his collection was in his basement for 30 years before the pandemic led him to examine it again. Rediscovering his passion was a positive experience for him that he wanted to share with others.
Sports cards in particular have a unique Jewish history. Topps, one of the most iconic card brands, was founded by Russian-Jewish immigrant Morris Chigornsky Shorin.
Many popular Jewish figures often appeared on baseball cards, such as Sandy Koufax and Hank Greenberg — with the latter being the face of a prized 1940 card Spinrad owns. He also noted that many popular card dealers and collectors are Jewish.
“There’s a cultural aspect to the hobby,” he explained. “I think that appreciating the history and the story behind these cards is something that really pulls Jewish people in.”
The Card Collecting Club at Beth El will not be solely dedicated to sports cards, though. Spinrad wants to encourage collectors of all kinds of cards to participate, from Magic: The Gathering to Pokémon. Similar to sports cards, Pokémon cards also saw a massive spike in interest during the pandemic — a 2021 financial report from The Pokémon Company noted that they produced 3.7 billion cards between March 2020 and March 2021.
Spinrad hopes that expanding the club’s focus to include trading card games will help bring in young collectors.
“There’s an opportunity to express the Jewish value of l’dor v’dor [from generation to generation],” he said. “The older generation can teach the next generation and vice versa. Hobbies like these create generational connections, both horizontally within age groups and vertically across different age groups.” In his article in the Beth El Bulletin, Spinrad suggested that young congregants could be encouraged to perform mitzvot by receiving packs of cards as a reward.
At the end of the day, the main goal of the Beth El Card Collecting Club is to bring people together to embrace their similar interests, discover new ones and form connections within the community. He said it is an unconventional club for a synagogue, but hopes it will be a social opportunity for the Beth El community.
“Through social media and by attending local card shows, I’ve met kind and friendly people who I wouldn’t otherwise know and with whom I might not share much else in common,” he wrote. “Through cardboard, we form friendly bonds.”