No down time here at TribeFest even at lunch, and as we nosh on tuna, turkey or vegetarian wraps, it’s all about Jews and football; two topics everyone knows are joined at the hip.
Jon Frankel of HBO’s Real Sports, is interviewing two Jewish NFL team owners, and noting the old adage that you’re more likely to find a minyan in the front office of sports teams than on the field, declares that "this year there were 10 Jewish players on the field but only eight and a half Jewish owners."
It turns out Mark Wilf of the Minnesota Vikings and Jonathan Kraft of the New England Patriots are quite affiliated Jewishly, and they are each speaking about their families’ experience escaping the Holocaust.
"My role model in life is my grandmother who grew role up in Lvov, Poland and was able to rescue my mother and grandfather who were part of just a handful to escape and survive the Lvov ghetto," said Wilf.
Kraft said that although his family is mostly secular, they observe kashrut and it’s "a very big part of my life to make sure my kids get a Jewish education and understand the traditions. It’s also very critical that they understand the importance of the state of Israel. My family has a number of businesses in Israel. The more Israel has a vibrant economy that gets them connected to the global economic environment, the better off it is because lots of contries depend on it even if they’re not crazy about the Jewish people."
Wilf says he takes pride in maintaining the shofar on the team’s helmets. "There’s no team like the Jewish community," he said.
When the topic turns to the controversy over the Jets scheduling games last season on the High Holidays, Kraft says his general counsel has a a Jewish calendar and "always knows she doesn’t need to come and ask." Both owners said they’ve worked with the NFL to avoid scheduling those games out of sensitivity to Jewish fans.
"My family knows that if there is any game on Rosh Hashanah we stay home," said Wilf. "Those are just our values."
Now we’re up to questions. Boos from the crowd when told collective bargaining is off-limits as per a gag order from the league. Among the inquiries: What about playing an NFL game in Israel? How do you get the players to engage in philanthropy and non-proft appearances? (Kraft says he had it put in players’ contracts.)
And closing the session: How do you feel about the football being called a pigskin. Replied WIlf: "I got the shofar on the helmet, I can’t control everything."