American Football In Israel:
A New Love In
An Ancient Land
By Priscilla Denard,
LJCC Director of Programs & Events
American football in Israel. Did you know that they play American football in Israel?
Well, I didn’t until a few weeks ago. Let’s be honest though, I don’t know a whole lot about football unless it’s Alabama football. Roll Tide!
But enough of that (at least until next season) and back to American football in Israel. It’s new, it’s exciting and the Israel Football League’s commissioner is coming to Birmingham — and he’ll speak to our community Thursday, Jan. 25, at 6 pm at the Levite Jewish Community Center.
Commissioner Betzalel Friedman grew up in Indianapolis and moved to Israel with his family when he was 10. He stayed interested in American sports and when the Internet came around, it was much easier for him to follow his favorite teams.
He reconnected with American-style football after his service in the Israeli army. He then played for a year for the Gush Etzion-based Judean Rebels as a wide receiver. After playing for a year, he coached for five years, before taking on the role of Commissioner.
The Israel Football League is mainly sponsored by Boston’s Kraft family. Robert Kraft is well-known as the owner of the New England Patriots and he and his late wife, Myra, combined their love of football, Judaism and Israel to sponsor the Israel Football League.
One of Friedman’s biggest roles as Commissioner is to make sure the league continues and grows because even with the Kraft family’s involvement, it still faces financial challenges. This is part of the reason he is speaking throughout the US — to promote awareness about the league and its positive impact on Israeli society both for Jews and Arabs. (However, his appearance at the LJCC will not be a fundraiser.)
A Birmingham woman, Brandy Gibson, who is doing some promotional work for the Israel Football League, reached out to our Jewish community to see if we would host the Commissioner. Brandy, among her many activities, is an ardent supporter of Israel and leader in Christians United for Israel (CUFI).
Talk about perfect timing!
The LJCC and the Birmingham Jewish Federation are doing an NFL-themed friendly competition. We thought Friedman’s appearance would be perfect because he is the Commissioner of the Israel Football League and his being here ties in perfectly — he is a motivational speaker and our whole purpose with our NFL-themed competition is to motivate our LJCC and BJF staff to take our membership and fundraising to new levels.
Both the Israel Football League and the LJCC-BJF are facing challenges and growth opportunities and this unique Israeli being here will be inspiring and lots of fun.