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For my friend, Ed, whose love of sports is eclipsed only by his love of Judaism.
Pretzels, salsa, nachos and franks in a blanket. Beer, soda and pizza. East plays West. It’s time for the Big Game, the XLVII Super Bowl, the football game of the year. And there were Jews who helped their respected teams on the way to victory.
There was Josh Miller, who grew up in East Brunswick, N.J., to a Conservative Jewish family. He played for the New England Patriots and was part of the winning team for the Super Bowl XXXIX. He said there was much pressure playing in a game with so much at stake.
He also felt great pride in being a Jewish athlete, and he likes to feel he is a role model for other Jewish athletes. He spent 12 years in the NFL, also playing for the Steelers and the Titans. He anchors a drive-time sports talk show in Pittsburgh and speaks to kids’ groups about Jewish pride and Jewish sportsmanship.
Miller joins a rather short list of Jewish players to be part of Super Bowl history. Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Randy “the Rabbi” Grossman won a Jewish-record four times in 1975, ’76, ’79 and ’80.
Grossman grew up in a suburb of Philadelphia, Haverford, was given his nickname from defensive end Dwight White. It was a fitting name for a Jewish boy from Philly, Grossman recalled. Today Grossman works as a financial advisor for Wealth Management Strategies.
“The Rabbi” went undrafted after a fine career at Temple University, but the NFL considered him “undersized” for the big leagues. He stayed with the Steelers, overcoming the odds against him, riding the wave to victorywhen the Steelers captured the Super Bowl title in 1975 in Grossman’s rookie season. It was at that time that Grossman felt a pull to the Pittsburgh Jewish community. He felt it was good the active Jewish community of the area had “one of its own.”
In 1999, Grossman was inducted into the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. Although he grew up Conservative, Grossman considers himself a Reform Jew. At his Bar Mitzvah, the rabbi was not sure he would show, but he knew where to find the young man — in the back of the synagogue, playing football.
Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman Alan “Sholomo” Veingard’s life took an entirely different turn after his football days ended. He now tours the country talking about his transformation into an observant Jew, having embraced the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement. He notes that it is difficult being shomer Shabbos, a Sabbath-observing Jew, while being on a team. Friday night meetings and Saturday games would be out, but he feels that if you are a great player, exceptions could be made for you. Veingard still loves the game, but these days sports a yarmulke instead of a football helmet.
Other Jews who were on the winning teams include San Francisco 49ers offensive lineman, Harris Barton (1989,’90, ’95), 49ers tight end John Frank (1985,’89) Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Bobby Stein (1970) and Los Angeles Raiders defensive end Lyle Alzado (1984). And while the list is short, it is significant.
And yes, please pass me a kosher hot dog with mustard.
Source: Connecticut Jewish Ledger