Few would question the Dominican Republic’s love for baseball. What is less known is how the Dominican Republic during the dark years of Nazi Germany attempted to save hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees from Hitler’s occupied Europe.
Despite the fact that the United States refused to provide the Dominican Republic with the necessary ships for the rescue operation, and thus condemning countless others to face an untimely and tragic death, a few fortunate souls did make it to the Dominican Republic. Once there, they established a small Jewish refugee settlement along the nation’s Northern coast in the city of Sosúa.
Over 75 years later Sosúa once again is becoming a symbol for religious and racial tolerance. Recently one of the Dominican Republic’s greatest baseball players, Tony Fernandez died. Tony represented the intersection of Latino, Black, and Jewish cultures. He was a symbol for many of how people can look beyond their differences and find their common humanity.
Because Tony Fernandez reflected how various cultures could come together and always to help others, in his case through baseball, a new center for intercultural and racial understanding is in the works to be established as a collaborative partnership between the Houston, TX-based Center for Latino-Jewish Relations; Boston, MA-based Sosua75 Inc.; and the City of Sosúa.
It is hoped that both the Dominican Republic’s national government and selected foreign embassies and reputable Dominican corporations and civic organizations might also participate in this project.
The idea of a baseball training center named after Tony Fernandez is the brainchild of Elihu “Hugh” Baver Sosua75 Board Chairman and Director of “The Pitch Maquina de Batear” Batting Cage located at the Municipal Baseball field in the heart of downtown Sosúa. Working in close partnership with Rabbi Peter Tarlow Ph.D. and the Executive Director and co-founder of the Center for Latino-Jewish Relations (CLJR), the CLJR’s and Sosua75’s project’s goals are to showcase how both the Latino and Jewish communities can work together to increase the area’s family friendly International sports and cultural tourism appeal and economic prosperity.
Drawing upon the many shared cultural synergies and long-standing collective history here in Sosua and in the Caribbean the two organizations plan the creation of a World Class Center for Peace and Tolerance. Planned elements of the Center include an International Welcome Center, library, classrooms, Conference rooms, housing facilities for exchange students, a small interdenominational chapel, and administrative offices. Along with its University academic work and targeted educational curriculum and programs, the CLJR’s main activity has been focused on cultural tourism, bringing Latino leaders to Israel and Jewish leaders to the Iberian Peninsula.
With the CLJR’s collaboration in Latin America the new center will use baseball as a means of uniting both the Latino and Jewish communities through the love of the game and good sportsmanship. Elihu Baver, who heads the Sosua 75 project since 2014 and will represent the CLJR in the Dominican Republic stated: “This emerging partnership and collaborative initiative with both the CLJR and City of Sosua represents a great opportunity to portray the unique history and convergence of these two great cultures and the sparsely known Holocaust WWII rescue of displaced European refugees which occurred here following the 1938 Evian Conference.”
The city’s mayor, Honorable Wilfredo Olivences, who strongly supports the project and understands that Sosúa can become a North Coast epicenter for intercultural understanding through tourism stated: “A major focus of our City’s growth plan will be further embracing opportunities for cultural and sports tourism through highlighting the unique history here.”
The center hopes to increase Dominican tourism by bringing people from around the world to learn how to play baseball, or improve their game, and at the same time to learn about Latino and Jewish cultures and the importance of respecting all people regardless of their race, religion, or national origin.
For more information about the center, please contact Dr. Peter Tarlow at [email protected] or Mr. Elihu Baver at [email protected]
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