"It's like any other profession," said Levis, a Conservative Jew and one of five active Jewish major-league ballplayers. "If you're good enough and you work hard at it, you can be successful."
The 28-year-old Philadelphia native was raised in a Conservative household and attended Hebrew school. Baseball games and practices were scheduled around his religious practices.
"I got it done," Levis said. "I had a bar mitzvah and I respected all the holidays. I had plenty of time for school, baseball and friends."
After playing Little League and American Legion ball as a kid, Levis played three years at the University of North Carolina. He also played in the Cape Cod League during the summer. The Philadelphia Phillies thought Levis was good enough to select in the 36th round of the June 1986 amateur baseball draft. Although the Phillies were Levis' favorite team, he instead signed with the Cleveland Indians after they chose him in the fourth round of the June 1989 draft.
Levis made his majorleague debut April 24, 1992, when Cleveland purchased his contract from the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, its Triple-A team back then. He spent parts of the 1992-to-'95 seasons with the Indians, mostly as a backup catcher, and traveled with them during the 1995 post-season as an alternate, warming up pitchers in the bullpen.
Entering this season, Levis hit .240 with one home run and 10 runs batted in for his career.
During the 1995 off-season, Cleveland traded Levis to Milwaukee for minor-league pitchers Scott and Jared Camp. Through June 14, Levis was hitting .255 with no home runs and five RBIs in 51 at bats for the Brewers. Levis hit a pinch-hit single off Red Sox reliever Heathcliff Slocumb in the ninth inning of Milwaukee's 11-8 victory over Boston June 9.
"It's a dream come true," Levis said. "When I was 5 years old, I remember going to a Phillies game and saying, `Wow! I want to be a major leaguer!' "
He also wants to practice Judaism. Levis said he fasts on the Thursday night (because it's usually a day off) before Yom Kippur if he anticipates playing the next day. He also attends minyan when possible. Although he doesn't keep kosher, Levis asked the youngsters from Maccabi if they knew of any local kosher restaurants. They suggested several places.
"He's nice," said Jacob Kriegel, 9, of Sharon, Mass., a suburb south of Boston. "He's not afraid to say he's Jewish."
One youngster asked Levis about anti-Semitism in the majors. Levis said he's heard "jokes and stuff about being cheap," but nothing malicious.
"There's not a whole lot of anti-Semitism," Levis said. "But some people may talk behind your back."
Levis said his wife, the former Joan Greenspan, came from an Orthodox household. He said her family has been "really supportive" of his career, even though he can't practice Judaism as much as he'd like.
"They love it," Levis said.
The Maccabi youngsters had mixed feelings about Levis' decisions regarding his career and his heritage. They wondered if his loyalty to Judaism should exceed his loyalty to his team.
"I think he should try to stay home on the holidays," said Janna Fox, 10, of suburban Milton. "But if the team really needs him…"
"He's letting down the Jewish tradition if he doesn't observe the holidays," Kriegel said, "but he's letting his team down if he doesn't play."
"That's really judging a baseball player by his religion," added Talyi Calm, 11, of Sharon. "I don't think that's the main goal of baseball."
The other major leaguers who are reportedly Jewish are pitchers Mike Milchin of the Minnesota Twins and Jose Bautista of the Chicago Cubs, catcher Brad Ausmus of the San Diego Padres and outfielder Shawn Green of the Toronto Blue Jays.