Rachel Weisel, 30, is passionate about baseball. And the Jewish community. And history and politics and baking. Turns out the St. Louis native is a perfect fit in Washington — she’s been here eight years — where she can cultivate them all.
What was the Jewish community in St. Louis like?
It’s very tight knit. People are always surprised when I tell them there is a vibrant Jewish community in St. Louis. I went to Jewish day school, Jewish summer camp. I was a counselor for five years and I did bar and bat mitzvah tutoring. Our family was pretty active.
What about the D.C. Jewish community?
At first I was almost overwhelmed at the amount of choice there was here. On any given Friday night there’s maybe six or seven competing Shabbat dinners or plans or just events. But it’s been really good. I started out going to Shir Delight services at Adas Israel and Shabbat services at Sixth and I. I really like politics and news and history, so I go to book talks and lectures and events at Sixth and I all the time. And I’ve become more involved with the Federation. So, yeah, there’s a lot.
The last thing I would say I do is read Torah on the High Holidays at Sixth and I and I’ve been doing that for all eight years I’ve been living here.
How did you decide to do that?
I learned how to read Torah in fifth grade and I just really liked it. My synagogue started asking me to do it when I was in late middle school. I still read Torah occasionally at home and I didn’t want to lose the skill, so I just reached out to Sixth and I. And once you do it once, they ask you again.
How did you become a baseball fan?
I think what really got me into it is when the Cardinals got Mark McGwire in 1997 and then the next year was the home run chase. I remember we had this poster with the numbers 1-62 on it in my brother’s closet and we would all take turns getting to cross off the numbers when he would hit a home run. And it was a really big deal who got to cross off the number. And I just got more and more into it. Now, it’s one of my favorite things in the world.
Baseball has the reputation of being sort of boring. What draws you to it?
Everybody thinks the game is too long, but I don’t think it’s boring at all. Whether it’s a pitcher’s duel or a slugfest, I am just so fascinated by it. I mean, there’s so much history in the game, so many statistics you can watch. And when you follow a particular team, you get to know the stories behind each player, where they came from, personalities. You can just learn a lot.
Have you gone to many games here in D.C.?
It ends up being between five and 10 every year. The Cardinals are usually here once a year. And when that happens, I go early and watch batting practice and I’ve gotten some cool autographs that way.
Have you ever caught a foul ball or home run?
No! I got a foul ball at spring training once. And then, one of my friends took me to a Nationals game for my birthday this year and a player threw him a ball because he had a glove. He gave it to me for my birthday. So that’s the closest I’ve ever been.
So, do you have a shrine to baseball in your apartment?
My apartment is not big enough for a whole shrine, but I’ve got a bunch of signed baseballs in cases on my dresser. My dad got me this thing for my birthday — a display case in the shape of home plate that you can put on the wall with your baseballs in it. And I have some bobbleheads and a few baseball cards.
The Nationals actually do a thing where if you send a baseball card and a check for $25 to donate to the Nationals Dream Foundation, [pitcher] Max Scherzer would sign it with your name on it and sent it back to you.
That’s a good incentive to donate to charity.
Yeah, it will work on me every time.