I have been to hundreds of ball games in my life. I have watched thousands. I don’t recall EVER seeing the face of a single fan on the stadium screen with a tribute to the memory of that specific fan. There are general moments of silence for coaches or players who have passed on, or for fallen soldiers or terror victims in general, but NEVER for a specific fan.
This reality makes the decision made by New England Patriot’s owner Robert Kraft to pay tribute to Ezra Schwartz, of blessed memory, in the most public manner imaginable all the more meaningful. The moment of silence at Gillette Stadium before the Monday Night Football game, which included a picture of a smiling Ezra in his Patriots jersey, that 80,000 fans in the stadium and 15 million viewers on ESPN saw, touched Ezra’s family and friends deeply.
Ariel Goldman, a close childhood friend of Ezra’s who flew with his body from Israel to Boston and attended the game — using tickets that Mr. Kraft set aside for Ezra’s friends — said: “This honor would have meant more to him than anything else. Having the Patriots honor him would have been his greatest dream.” Ariel added, “Seeing his picture up there, hearing his name announced in front of all of those people, seeing the Patriots, the Bills, and the entire stadium standing quietly in his honor — it was really powerful. It was really nice. It was comforting.”
Thanks to that moment of silence, Ezra became the topic of discussion throughout the media and social network. It led to millions learning about Ezra’s kindness, humor, love for his family and friends, and his love for life. The Israeli newspapers gave extra coverage to Ezra and what kind of kid he was because of the emotional tribute before Monday’s game. Ezra was no longer just “an American studying in Israel” who was tragically killed. He became “a symbol of giving,” with story after story about his life revealing acts of kindness, including the donating of his bar mitzvah money to United Hatzalah — the very organization that rushes to save the lives of terror victims in Israel on a daily basis.
For this alone, we must all tip our hats to Mr. Kraft and thank him for making the bold decision to hold this unusual tribute to an unknown and unrecognized Patriots fan.
I must take a moment to mention that the comments I hear regarding the precise language that was used are missing the point. This was a tribute to Ezra, to his family, and to his friends who knew just how big a Patriots fan Ezra was. And that mission was accomplished.
But aside from the most immediate result of the moment of silence — giving respect to and remembering Ezra, and providing comfort for his family and friends — there was a broader impact of this tribute. The terrorism which we are experiencing in Israel was recognized and grouped together with the worldwide wave of terror. And, for this, all of us in Israel and supporters of Israel around the world owe Mr. Kraft a debt of gratitude.
We must not forget the overall impact: there was one moment of silence, but that led to hours of discussion and huge amounts of ink written about Ezra having been murdered in an act of terror in Israel. That story behind the moment of silence was covered by the Today Show, the Associated Press, Sports Illustrated, CBS Sports and many more news outlets. All talked about Ezra, Israel, and Palestinian terrorism.
That focus and spotlight on the terrorism against Israelis, and the linking of a terror victim in Israel with those of worldwide terror was a result of Mr. Kraft’s decision. All of us in Israel are so fortunate to have such a good friend – and passionate Jew and Zionist — in a position of such influence.
So on behalf of supporters of Israel worldwide, and on behalf of all Israelis, I say: “Thank you Mr. Kraft. May you be blessed with many years of good health and happiness, and may we only share good news together.”