Arts and Culture | Sports

SF Giants’ first home game blessed by seafaring ‘Rally Rabbi’

Rabbi Yosef Langer on a yacht before the San Francisco Giants’ home opener, July 28, 2020. (Gabriel Greschler)

(J. the Jewish News of Northern California via JTA) — While the ballpark Tuesday night at the San Francisco Giants’ home opener may not have been filled with fans because of COVID-19 restrictions, nearby McCovey Cove had a familiar guest.

Standing on a 75-foot yacht docked in a part of the bay named after former star first baseman Willie McCovey, Rabbi Yosef Langer blew his shofar to bless the Giants, who faced off against the San Diego Padres.

“I was blowing like a wild man,” said Langer, 74. “It was a beautiful day. I just hope the players heard it.”

However, the Padres came out on top, beating the Giants 5 to 3.

As the leader of Chabad of San Francisco, Langer is best known among Jews and local baseball fans as the “Rally Rabbi” who blows the shofar during the Giants’ annual Jewish Heritage Night. He is even celebrated with a bobblehead that at times has been worth hundreds of dollars on eBay.

“You can have fun with Judaism,” Langer said while sitting on the back deck of the yacht. And while he wishes he could have been in the stadium for the blessing of the team, he’s trying to look on the bright side during the pandemic.

“You have to take a positive look at life,” he said. “It’s up to us to use an opportunity to bring goodness and kindness to everyone, to make people happy, to come to the ballgame, even under restrictive circumstances.”

Usually blowing the shofar from home plate, Langer chose to celebrate opening night while on a yacht that he’s been looking to purchase for months in order to facilitate Jewish teen experiences, Havdalah night cruises and kosher dinners out on the water, an idea he calls “Chabad at Sea.”

Langer intends to purchase the $500,000 yacht through crowdfunding. So far, he’s received pledges of $100,000.

Langer was joined by some 50 other Giants fans on their own boats who chose to support their team from the cove. While the Giants were able to go through with the game, other teams haven’t been so lucky. The Miami Marlins recently had to put their season on hold after a major Covid-19 outbreak struck their team on July 26.