The Pierogis that showed up at J Café on Jan. 23 were not the usual lunchtime fare at AgeWell Pittsburgh’s kosher meal program for senior citizens.
But when Cheese Chester and Jalapeno Hannah, mascots of the Pittsburgh Pirates, came to see what was cooking among the diners at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh — along with Pirates players Nick Kingham, Kevin Kramer and Kevin Newman, and coaches Kimera Bartee and Tom Prince — they were a welcome addition to the noontime meal.
The JCC was the second stop of the Pirates CARE-a-van on its trip to Squirrel Hill last Wednesday, following a visit to the Tree of Life synagogue building where the Pirates viewed the memorial to the 11 victims of the Oct. 27 anti-Semitic murders and learned about their lives.
“Many of the players were not here during the off-season” when the attack occurred, explained Jackie Hunter, director of Pirates Charities. The visit to Tree of Life gave those Pirates a chance to pay their respects to the community and to show their support.
While at J Café, Kramer and Newman served lunch to the patrons, while pitcher Kingham went table to table to schmooze, pass out knit Pirates hats and sign autographs.
From Jan. 23 to 25 the Pirates hosted about 30 events in 11 cities in the greater Pittsburgh area, including stops in Erie, Altoona and Morgantown, W.Va., home of the West Virginia Black Bears, the Pirates Single-A affiliate. Events included a meal delivery to all six Pittsburgh Police Zone stations on Friday and visits to several non-profit community organizations.
“This is the part of giving back to the community,” said Kingham. “The least we can do is to support the community that supports us.”
He was moved, he said, by the CARE-a-van’s stop at Tree of Life.
“It’s real when you step inside the building and hear the stories,” he said. “It breaks your heart.”
The J Café diners spiritedly engaged with the Pirates — and the Pierogis — chatting it up and cracking jokes.
“I hope they show as much enthusiasm on the field as they are doing here,” quipped David Saul.
Another contingent of Pirates, Steven Brault, Jung Ho Kang, Jesus Liranzo, Jason Martin, coaches Heberto Andrade and Euclides Rojas, and announcer Joe Klimchak, headed over to Community Day School, where they helped serve lunch to the intermediate school and middle school students.
The early childhood and lower school students participated in a special assembly with the Pirates, and joined them in hula hoop and relay race games. The Pirate Parrot also made an appearance.
“We are deeply grateful to the Pirates Charities CARE-a-van for making a stop at Community Day School to spread their positive message about the values of kindness and hard work and recognizing that everyone has a special gift to share with the world,” CDS Head of School Avi Baran Munro said in an email. “Thank you also to the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh for continuing to seed opportunities to uplift and inspire the children in our community.”
The Federation had received an initial call from the Pirates about making stops at Jewish institutions in Squirrel Hill and referred the Pirates to CDS, according to Jennifer Bails, director of marketing and communications for CDS. PJC
Toby Tabachnick can be reached at