Even on the largest stage in football the phrase holds true, “Wherever you go there is always someone Jewish.”
There are currently 13 Jews playing in the NFL, the most famous being Julian Edelman, who was named MVP of Super Bowl LIII. Edelman has been known to train in Israel in the off-season, and even wrote an inspiring children’s book incorporating Theodor Herzl’s famous maxim, “If you will it, it is no dream.”
Young sports fans look up to athletes, and Jews performing at such a high level serve as role models to Jewish athletes aiming to make it big. It not only makes them comfortable with their Judaism, but also able and willing to express their Judaism through whatever platform they have.
This year, BOTH teams in the Super Bowl had Jewish players. The Chiefs’ Mitchell Schwartz is a Pro-Bowl lineman. Unfortunately, he has been injured since the Fall and sat out of the game. One of the best linemen in the AFC, Schwartz was missed during the big game, as Patrick Mahomes didn’t have much time in the pocket to make a play.
Schwartz has never been scared of letting the world know of his religion. He and his brother are the first pair of Jewish brothers to play in the league since 1923. They wrote a book describing their upbringing in football and childhood in “Eat My Schwartz: Our Story of NFL Football, Food, Family, and Faith.”
Ali Marpet started for Tampa and continued his dominance by only allowing one sack in the big game. An offensive guard, Marpet played in college at Hobart, a Division III school—without scholarship—and ended up getting drafted by the Bucs in the second round in 2015. He grew up hosting Shabbat dinners at his home and is a Birthright Israel alum.
In addition to Jewish players, many teams have owners and front office executives who are Jewish. The Glazer family, who owns this year’s NFL champion, is Jewish. It goes to show how many paths there are for anyone in the Jewish community to pursue their passion in sports and create a future for themselves.
It is always exciting to hear about Jews on big stages, and for young football fans, it is always great to see someone just like you competing for a championship.