Brother Blake Dickman (UC San Diego, 2022) plays first base, third base and catcher for the Under 23 Israeli Men’s National Team and has a tremendous sense of pride for his Judaism and Israel.
“My sister and I were the only two kids at our entire High School who were Jewish so that, in a sense, made us a little more proud to be Jewish.” That Jewish pride carried into when he started playing sports as a kid.
Brother Dickman played almost every major sport as a kid in organized leagues, but continued to prioritize his traditions. “I look up to Kevin Youkilis and Sandy Koufax. They never played on Yom Kippur so I never played on Yom Kippur. I never played on any of the high holy days. You’ve got to hold true to your values and your Judaism…I always prioritized my Judaism.”
Following COVID lockdowns, he transferred from the University of Nevada-Reno to UC-San Diego but was coming off surgeries and injuries from playing baseball. He had high hopes and expectations to get more playing time. “I only had a couple of opportunities to play but that’s what led me into the path of seeing what else is out there aside from baseball.” This led him to seek out other organizations and clubs on campus to find a close circle of friends outside of baseball. He realized that baseball is a great game but it shouldn’t consume his entire life.
At a Hillel dinner he met Alex Becker who gave him a rush card and told him to come out to some of the rush events. Brother Becker would go on to be Brother Dickmans Big Brother. “The Brothers told me that they understood that I was a senior and an athlete and I have all these time commitments and prior obligations. They told me to just give it a shot…give it a try…and see how I like it.” Brother Dickman went to three rush events and realized how special AEPi was. “They were the most chill guys you could possibly imagine in terms of working around my busy schedule and just making it fit for me. They are still 90 of my best friends.” The chapter was proud to have a Jewish athlete and a Brother representing the Jewish people in campus athletics.
Brother Dickman assisted the Jewish outreach chair and would notify the Brothers about Jewish events that were being held on campus that they should be taking part in. He fit the role perfectly because he was also the president of Tritons for Israel, the co-founder (with another Brother) of J Health, an executive member of Triton Jewish leaders, an executive board member of Hillel and was highly involved with Chabad on Campus.
Brother Dickman found that AEPi is a society within itself with a tremendous amount of networking opportunities with alumni and others. “AEPi really re-emphasized Ahavat Yisrael which is a value that I’ve really embodied meaning, loving for your fellow Jew. What that means to me is always looking out for each other and having your Brother’s back. It’s taking care of each other and if someone is struggling you’re always the first guy to turn to.” AEPi has given Brother Dickman a support system especially while traveling overseas.
Since childhood, Brother Dickman has wanted to be on the Israeli National Baseball Team. He began emailing the coach around his bar mitzvah and hasn’t stopped trying to represent the Jewish people in competition. In June of 2022, he made Aliyah, forgoing mandatory military service because he was 22. He became a citizen in time for the European Championship Qualifier in Lithuania where he had his first experience playing for the team. He even hit a go-ahead double in the semifinal game against Switzerland. “I’m always going to have a home with Israel baseball and I’m fortunate enough to still be able to extend my playing career over there and represent my country. Playing for a national team on the international stage against other countries is such a unique and tremendous experience.”
“But the biggest moment was hearing Hatikva for the first time before game one. We were lined up down the line, standing there, looking at the Israeli flag in the middle of Lithuania. Hearing our anthem being played over the loudspeaker while we stood across from the Belgian National Team was the most surreal experience. I had chills all over my body and tears running down my cheeks at that moment. That’s when I knew it was all worth it, this is actually happening and I’m here, living this dream. That was by far the coolest experience. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.” The team brough home the bronze medal in the qualifier and are now headed to the European Championship in the Czech Republic.
In addition to playing, Brother Dickman is also a coach of the Under-19 Israeli Team that just took first place in the European Championship. That team is headed to the Pony League World Series in Texas. He also won a silver medal coaching the Israeli Maccabiah team last summer and will be a coach of a city team at the Junior Maccabi games.
Through all of this, Brother Dickman’s chapter Brothers have been extremely supportive. “They’re constantly supporting me and reaching out to me, asking how I’m doing. Last summer, I sent them a link to the live stream to watch the games and they all went over to one of the houses and watched together.”
“Be loud and proud. Don’t be afraid to show your Jewish pride in public and don’t be afraid to educate others around you who may hold opposing views that may be antisemitic or anti-zionist or both. Use our platforms for good and try to bridge these gaps with other people. The only way to create change is by having conversations with people and by sharing different perspectives. Don’t be afraid to put yourselves into those uncomfortable conversations and positions. Be proud, be respectful and do the best you can to share our truth.”
“I still take pride in being able to represent our chapter, AEPi, the Jewish people and wear our letters proudly across my chest.”