I will be awake at 1:30 very early on Monday morning watching the Super Bowl and rooting for the New England Patriots.
My first childhood memory was from 1958. I was 7 years old, sitting with my father at our kitchen table in Laurelton, New York, listening to the NFL championship between the New York Giants and the Baltimore Colts on the radio. The Giants lost in overtime, and it was painful. From that moment, I became a lifetime football fan.
Beginning in 1999, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft came into my life as a friend and lead sponsor of American Football in Israel. Thanks to the unending generosity of Patriots owner Robert Kraft and his wife Myra z”l, American Football has turned into one of the fastest growing sports in the country. Kraft Family Stadium and the new Kraft Family Sports Campus in Jerusalem are home to about 2,000 football players in leagues that include the Kraft Family IFL and the Kraft Family IHFL.
In 2005, Kraft brought his third Lombardi Trophy to Israel and held it up to a large crowd making up the Israeli football community that was present at Kraft Family Stadium. That was the first time the coveted trophy had ever left North America. Speaking in Hebrew to the crowd Kraft said, “Before building the field in Jerusalem, the Patriots had never won a Super Bowl. Since building the field we have three championships.” He then looked toward the heavens and said, “This could not have been by chance.” Since that time, the Patriots have won two more Lombardi trophies and on Sunday night, they play for a sixth.
A year later, the Krafts thrilled the local footballers by bringing Super Bowl MVP quarterback Tom Brady to the country. In recent years, Kraft has led missions to Israel from the Pro Football Hall of Fame, including legendary former players Joe Montana and Jim Brown. The Patriots Jewish star Julian Edelman came on a visit some years later, and attended the bar mitzvah of Kraft’s grandson, Joey, on Masada.
The Kraft family is deeply invested in Israel and this year the nation is recognizing that dedication by awarding Robert Kraft the coveted Genesis Prize. Largely due to the reputation and actions of the Kraft family, there are many thousands of Patriot fans in Israel. The Patriots have earned the right to be known as Israel’s team in the NFL. Go Pats!