Ebner at the Rio Olympics (Credit: Pascal Guyot/AFP/Getty Images)
Nate Ebner (b. 1988) was born and raised in Ohio, where his father was the principal of Springfield’s Temple Sholom Hebrew Sunday school. Ebner’s father was a fan of rugby, and introduced his son to the sport at an early age. At 17, Ebner became the youngest player ever to make the US national team. He was also the MVP of the under-19 and under-20 teams. During his third year of studies at Ohio State University, Ebner decided to try out for the football team, and soon became one of their best players. He was named “most inspirational player”, won several awards, and was given a football scholarship for his final, senior year. In 2012, Ebner was drafted by the NFL’s New England Patriots and signed a four-year contract, which he recently extended for another two years. In 2014, he won his first Super Bowl with the team. That year, Patriot’s coach Bill Belichik described him as being in the “top-five percent all time of players that I’ve coached.” Meanwhile, rugby has returned to the Olympics after some 90 years, and Ebner got permission from the Patriots to try out for the team. Having not played rugby professionally for a long time, his odds for making it were put at just 10 to 20 percent. Surprising everyone, Ebner made the team and is now in Rio. That makes him the only NFL player (and Super Bowl champion) to participate in the Olympics. Ebner has been described as a “heat-seeking missile” on the field, and having a “passion for being great”. His main inspiration is his father, who was tragically murdered in a robbery eight years ago. Ebner said of his father: “He taught me the importance of being Jewish… and conduct myself always in a proper manner… My dad was my only role model… There wasn’t anyone else I wanted to be like more than him.”
Leslie H. Wexner (b. 1937) was born in Ohio to Russian-Jewish immigrants. He dropped out of law school to help his parents, who opened a small clothing shop after struggling for many years in low-level jobs in the garment industry. At 26, he loaned $5000 and opened his own sportswear store for young women, called ‘The Limited’. The store was a hit, pulling in $160,000 in sales in its first year. Just 6 years later, the company went public. Wexner has been its CEO since then, making him the all time longest-serving CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Over that time, he has taken his company to new heights, starting a number of new businesses, and acquiring others, including Victoria’s Secret, La Senza, Pink, Bath & Body Works, and Abercrombie & Fitch. He now oversees 3000 locations around the world, and his net worth is estimated at around $6 billion. A sizable portion of this wealth goes to charitable causes. Wexner has donated millions to the United Way, Hillel, Birthright, and Ohio State University. He has given over $160 million to the Columbus Foundation, and pledged $100 million for medical and cancer research. His own Wexner Foundation provides funding for Jewish leadership programs, master’s degrees in rabbinics and Jewish studies, Jewish day schools in the US and universities in Israel, as well as sponsoring Israelis studying at Harvard. For his extensive philanthropic work and business acumen, Wexner has won numerous awards and honourary degrees.