Tag Archives: Football

Jew of the Week: Eran Zahavi

Israel’s (and China’s) Greatest Footballer

Eran Zahavi (Photo Credit: Nir Keidar)

Eran Zahavi (b. 1987) was born in Rishon LeZion, Israel, to a French-Jewish father and Israeli mother. He began playing soccer with the Hapoel Tel Aviv club when he was just 6 years old. After completing his IDF service, he started to play for Hapoel Tel Aviv’s senior team. In the 2009-10 season, he helped lead the team to an Israel State Cup, and an Israeli Premier League championship, scoring the winning goal in the 92nd minute of the final. Two years later, he signed a five-year deal with Italian club Palermo, but transferred to Maccabi Tel Aviv half way through the contract. He became the captain during the 2015-16 season, and set an Israeli record scoring 35 goals in 36 games. The following year, he signed with Guangzhou R&F in the Chinese Super League. Zahavi quickly became a top scorer, and was nicknamed “King of Yuexiushan”. Rival team Shandong Luneng Taishan F.C. wanted him badly and offered $20 million for a trade—the most ever for an Israeli football player. In 2017, he was China’s MVP and won a Golden Boot Award. Two years later, he set a new Chinese Super League scoring record. In 2020, Zahavi returned to Europe, signing with Dutch team PSV Eindhoven. He tied the team record for goals that season. At the same time, during the 2020 Euro qualifiers, he was second only to Harry Kane in goals (and tied with Cristiano Ronaldo). In a game against Slovakia, Israel’s team was down 2-0 before Zahavi scored a hat-trick within 20 minutes, giving Israel the 3-2 win. After a couple of unfortunate incidents and attacks on his home in Amsterdam, Zahavi decided to return to Israel. A few weeks ago, he re-signed with Maccabi Tel Aviv for two years. Zahavi was Israeli Footballer of the Year twice, and is the national team’s all-time scoring leader.

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Words of the Week

This phase of existence is finite. Some people live 20 years, some people live 100 years – what’s the difference, really, from the perspective of that which transcends the infinite and the eternal? It’s equally insignificant. What is significant is what you actually do with the time that you do have.
Dr. Vladimir Zev Zelenko, ob”m

Jews of the Week: Mitchell Schwartz and Ali Marpet

Jewish Super Bowl Showdown

Mitchell Schwartz
(Credit: Jeffrey Beall)

Mitchell Bryan Mendel Schwartz (b. 1989) was born in California and raised in a religious Conservative Jewish home. By the time he started high school, he was 6’5″ and weighed 240 pounds—so he started playing football. Very quickly, he dominated the game, and just a couple of years later was California high schools’ Offensive Lineman of the Year. He was also an all-star baseball pitcher, and an honour roll student with a near-perfect GPA. Not surprisingly, many colleges wanted him, and he chose to go to UC Berkeley where he majored in American Studies. Over his four-year college career, he didn’t miss a single game. In 2012, Schwartz was drafted to the NFL by the Cleveland Browns. He went on to play all 16 games in his impressive rookie season. After several more successful seasons, he signed a 5-year, $33 million contract with the Kansas City Chiefs, making him one of the highest paid tackles in the sport. Schwartz wears his Judaism proudly, and co-authored a book with his brother Geoff (also an NFL player) called Eat my Schwartz: Our Story of NFL Football, Food, Family, and Faith. He is a big supporter of Kansas City’s Chabad of Leawood, and has lit the city’s public menorah. Last year, he helped lead the Chiefs to a Super Bowl victory. Until then, he had never missed a single game in his entire NFL career. Unfortunately, that incredible streak ended earlier this season, though his team still made it to the Super Bowl, and will face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this Sunday. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay has their own Jewish all-star:

Ali Marpet
(Credit: buccaneers.com)

Alexander “Ali” Marpet (b. 1993) was born in New York to a traditional Jewish family. He was also a big high school football (and basketball) success. Marpet studied economics and public policy at Hobart College, which is not a particularly strong athletic school and doesn’t even award athletic scholarships. Only one other player in the history of the college ever made it to the NFL. Marpet went there anyways, and led their football team to multiple championship appearances. He was drafted to the NFL in 2016 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In his rookie season, he was voted the best pass-blocker among rookies and 12th-best run-blocking guard overall. In 2018, he signed a 5-year, $55 million extension with the Buccaneers, making him one of the highest paid guards in the NFL. Marpet once described how, while on Birthright Israel, the classic camel ride in the desert didn’t go so well for him since he weighed over 300 pounds and the camel wasn’t too happy about that! He has stated that he is honoured to represent all Jews as a professional athlete. Marpet hopes to win his first championship ring this Sunday.

Words of the Week

Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.
– Chinese Proverb

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