The millions of Americans gearing up to watch the 51st annual Super Bowl on Sunday might be surprised to learn that this year’s game has a deep Jewish connection which extends to Israel: the owners of both teams competing in this year’s game are Jewish, and both have ties to the Jewish state.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Patriot’s owner Robert Kraft (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Robert Kraft, billionaire owner of the New England Patriots since 1994, and Arthur Blank, who bought the Atlanta Falcons in 2002, were both raised in Jewish families. They have each donated millions of dollars of their personal wealth to Jewish and Israeli causes over the years, exemplifying the intrinsic Jewish value of tzedaka, or charity.

Kraft grew up outside Boston in an observant family, with a father active in the local synagogue. He did not join sports teams in his youth because he attended Hebrew school in the afternoon and refused to play on Saturdays, the Jewish Sabbath, though he would go on to play football at Columbia University.

After making billions in paper products and real estate, Kraft has given away over $100 million to Jewish and Israeli causes, including health care and education. Kraft’s name is well-known in Jerusalem, where he donated $6 million towards the building of a huge football arena called Kraft Family Stadium.

He has also donated to promote Jewish-Christian relations, endowing chairs in Jewish studies at Boston College and Holy Cross College, and a chair in Christian Studies at Brandeis University. His late wife, Myra, was active in supporting programs for Ethiopian immigrants to Israel.

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The two led multiple trips to Israel, even during the height of the Second Intifada; Myra regularly took Patriots players on the tours, including star quarterback Tom Brady in 2006 – who, though not Jewish, keeps a menorah in his Brookline home.

In 2016, Kraft was awarded an honorary doctorate from Yeshiva University.

Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank (Flickr/BSteve76)

Arthur Blank grew up in New York and made his fortune by co-founding the Home Depot chain with Jewish partner Bernie Marcus, who has said that the company’s practice of donating to communities affected by natural disasters throughout America is directly motivated by the value of tzedakah.

Blank personally has pledged to donate at least half of his personal wealth to charity. He has given $7 million to the National Jewish Health Center in Denver, $250,000 to the Jewish community of Scottsdale, and $150,000 to the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, where his team is based.

He has also donated $75,000 to the Jewish Agency for Israel, which is the body primarily responsible for promoting and facilitating Jewish immigration to the Holy Land.

Kraft is hoping for his fifth championship as owner, while it would be Blank’s first. Whichever team wins, it will be a victory for Jewish football fans the world over.

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Source: Israel in the News