Tag Archives: Miami

Jew of the Week: Alan Veingrad

The Super Bowl Champion Who Keeps Kosher

Alan Stuart Shlomo Veingrad (b. 1963) was born in Brooklyn and grew up in New Jersey and Miami. He went to Hebrew school as a child, then to Miami Sunset High School where he was captain of the football team. Veingrad was also an All-American track and field athlete. He went to what is now Texas A&M University on a sports scholarship. In 1984, he was voted the Lone Star Offensive Lineman of the Year. Despite working out round-the-clock and gaining over 100 pounds he was still considered too small for the NFL and went undrafted in 1985. Still, he was able to sign with the Tampa Buy Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent. The following year he signed with the Green Bay Packers and played on the starting line up as a right offensive tackle. In 1991 he signed with the Dallas Cowboys and was instrumental in helping the team win Super Bowl XXVII in 1993. After earning his championship, Veingrad retired from professional football. Since then, he has worked in real estate and finance, as a motivational speaker, and an AIPAC advocate for Israel. One Friday, his cousin invited him for Shabbat dinner, which lit a spark inside him. Veingrad then went to a Torah class to learn more, and soon found new meaning in life. He eventually became fully Torah-observant, and has since been called the “only Orthodox Jew to wear a Super Bowl ring”. He has traveled around the world to share his story, and also made an excellent series of 1-minute Jewish motivational videos, called Shlomo’s Playbook. Veingrad was inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2010 and was the NYPD’s Person of the Year in 2012.

Words of the Week

The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct Palestinian people to oppose Zionism…
Zuheir Muhsin, member of the PLO Executive Council, in a March 31, 1977 interview with Dutch newspaper “Trouw”.

Jew of the Week: Lawrence Kasdan

“I Am Your Father”

Larry Kasdan (Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore)

Larry Kasdan (Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore)

Lawrence Edward Kasdan (b. 1949) was born in Miami and raised in a small West Virginia town, where he was often picked on for being Jewish. He intended to become an English teacher, and graduated with a Master’s in Education from the University of Michigan (where he met his future wife of over 40 years). Kasdan couldn’t find a teaching job, however, instead winding up with a position as a copywriter. Despite finding success in the field, and winning the prestigious Clio Award for creative excellence in advertising, Kasdan didn’t like his job. He wanted to become a screenwriter and pitched his work in Hollywood, initially to no avail. One of his first scripts was The Bodyguard, which was rejected some 60 times! (It would eventually make it to the big screen in 1992, starring Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston.) Kasdan finally managed to sell a script – to Steven Spielberg. After this initial success, he was hired to write the screenplay for Raiders of the Lost Ark (the first of the Indiana Jones series). Just as he finished that script, George Lucas hired him to write The Empire Strikes Back, the second of the Star Wars films. This movie went on to become the most popular of the series, and transformed Star Wars into a timeless film franchise (now worth over $30 billion). The Library of Congress chose the film for preservation because of its cultural and historical significance, and its famous “I am your father” quote has been nominated for the list of greatest American quotes of all time. Kasdan also wrote the screenplay for Return of the Jedi (the final film in the first Star Wars trilogy), and has co-written the newest film in the franchise, The Force Awakens, soon to be released. All in all, Kasdan has written, directed, or produced 19 major films, and has been nominated for four Academy Awards. He is working on one more Star Wars movie, about the early years of Han Solo, which he said will be his last.

Words of the Week

Just as it is forbidden to slander a fellow, it is forbidden to slander oneself.
– Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak of Lubavitch

Jews of the Week: Joe, Ralph, and Avi Nakash

The Jordache Brothers

Avi, Joe, and Ralph Nakash

Joseph Nakash (b. 1942) was born in Israel to poor Syrian-Jewish immigrant parents. At 20, having never finished high school, Joseph moved to New York with just $25. He initially worked as a stock boy making $40 a week before taking over as store manager, saving money to bring over his brothers, Raphael and Avraham, from Israel. Soon after they arrived, the trio combined their savings to purchase an appliance store in Brooklyn, which they converted to a retailer selling designer jeans. The store was an instant hit, and in just a few years, they opened three more locations. They soon started producing their own brand of jeans: Jordache (a contraction of their names: Joe, Ralph, his son David, and Avi Nakash). Taking a loan to start a massive ad campaign, the brothers were able to turn Jordache into a household name in jeans. By the mid-80s, their revenues neared half a billion dollars, and the brothers began to expand their business into other areas. They started their own global cargo shipping business, and also acquired 50% of Guess (a deal which ended in 1990 with Jordache keeping the “Gasoline” brand and Guess keeping the “Diesel” brand). By 1995, Jordache began to lose its “high-end” status so the brothers made an agreement with Wal-Mart to sell the jeans as a discount label. This actually turned out to be a blessing, further propelling their sales. At the same time, they began to manufacture jeans for other brands like Tommy Hilfiger, American Eagle, and even Levi’s! Since then, the Nakash brothers have also expanded into airlines, hotels, agriculture, banking, and real estate. Their Israeli olive oil factory produces award-winning oils, and their Tel-Aviv tomato plant supplies Heinz with tomato paste. Most recently, they purchased Miami’s Versace Mansion (outbidding Donald Trump), and the Setai Miami Beach Hotel, among the city’s most expensive and prestigious. Their shipping company also won exclusive rights to operate Israel’s Red Sea port in Eilat. Despite the fact that the Nakash empire is worth over $2 billion, many of the company’s decisions are still hammered out at the family’s Shabbat dinner table.

Words of the Week

One who does not see God everywhere does not see Him anywhere.
– Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, The Kotzker Rebbe