Category Archives: World of Sport

Jews in the World of Sport

Jew of the Week: Randy Grossman

The “Rabbi” Who Won 4 Superbowls

Curt Randy Grossman (b. 1952) was born in Philadelphia to a traditional Jewish family. He dreamed of becoming a professional football player from childhood. He started playing in fourth grade. When a high school guidance counselor gave him a questionnaire with three blanks to fill in which careers he would be interested in, he wrote “professional football player” for all three. Grossman was the star of his school’s football and wrestling teams. He continued to impress in college, leading the Temple University Owls to a 9-1-0 record one year. In 1974, Grossman joined the Pittsburgh Steelers of the NFL. That same year, the Steelers won the Superbowl. The following year, the team was back in the Superbowl, and Grossman caught the crucial touchdown pass which led the Steelers to another championship. By this point, Grossman’s nickname was “the Rabbi”. Three years later, he had a career-high 37 receptions in 10 games, and helped the team win another Superbowl. Grossman played for the Steelers for several more years before retiring. All in all, he has 4 Superbowl rings. A Steelers Director of Personnel once said that Grossman had “the best” hands and could catch “whatever was near him”. Today, Grossman runs his financial firm, Wealth Management Strategies, and likes to shoot clay targets with his local Jewish “Clays and Knishes Club”.

Words of the Week

…the Qur’an specifies that the Land of Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people, that God Himself gave that Land to them as heritage and ordered them to live therein. It also announces that – before the end of the time – the Jewish people will come from many different countries to retake possession of that heritage of theirs. Whoever denies this actually denies the Qur’an itself. If he is not a scholar, and in good faith believes what other people say about this issue, he is an ignorant Muslim. If, on the contrary, he is informed about what the Qur’an and openly opposes it, he ceases to be a Muslim.
– Imam Abdul Hadi Palazzi

Jews of the Week: Alfred Nakache & Ben Helfgott

The Holocaust Survivors Who Became Olympians

Helfgott at the 1966 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia

Ben Helfgott (b. 1929) was born in Poland and was only a child when the Nazis invaded his country. He was sent with his entire family to Buchenwald concentration camp. Everyone perished except for one sister. After the war, Helfgott was among some 750 Jewish kids under 16 taken to England as refugees. Now safe in England, Helfgott started a Jewish youth club and became a big fan of sports. He was soon introduced to weightlifting and wanted to take it up professionally. Being just 5 foot 4 inches tall, and weighing 154 pounds, Helfgott was told to find another sport. He persisted nonetheless, and at age 26, became England’s champion in the 11-stone division. He went on to win four more English and British Commonwealth weightlifting championships, and represented the UK at the 1956 Olympics in Australia. He returned in the 1960 Olympics in Rome as the coach of the UK weightlifting team. He also participated in the Maccabiah Games, earning weightlifting gold three times. After retiring from sport, Helfgott became a successful businessman. He used his wealth to start The ’45 Aid Society, generously supporting struggling Holocaust survivors. Helfgott was recently knighted by Queen Elizabeth. He is one of just two Holocaust survivors to become an Olympian.

Alfred Nakache

The other is Alfred Nakache (1915-1983), born in French Algeria to a traditional Sephardic family of eleven children. As a child, Nakache had a crippling fear of water. He made the decision to overcome his phobia, and soon immersed himself in swimming and water sports. He went on to become a five-time French swimming champion, and set five European and World Records. After a silver medal at the 1935 Maccabiah Games, Nakache made the French Olympic team and competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. When the Nazis invaded France, Nakache escaped to the Free Zone in the south of the country. He wasn’t safe from anti-Semitism, though. Banned from swimming in Toulouse, he moved to Marseilles. Several weeks after setting a new record in the 400 metre butterfly in 1943, he was arrested and deported to Auschwitz. Surviving the camp’s hellish conditions, Nakache returned to swimming, setting a new French record in 1946. He made the French Olympic team again and participated in the 1948 games in London. In 1993, Nakache was inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. He was the subject of the 2001 documentary Alfred Nakache, the Swimmer of Auschwitz. Today, many pools across France are named after him.

What’s the Difference Between Ashkenazim and Sephardim?

Words of the Week

According to the pain is the gain.
– Pirkei Avot 5:21

Nakache (far left) with the French relay team at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Helfgott (inset) at a weightlifting competition.