This year’s Super Bowl features not only the NFL’s two most talented quarterbacks, Tom Brady of the New England Patriots and Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons, but also two Jewish owners who both have close connections with Israel.
Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, is hoping for his fifth championship since he took over the franchise in 1994. And Arthur Blank is trying for his first championship with the Falcons that he bought in 2002. The last time there were two Jewish team owners in the Super Bowl was in 2012 when the New York Giants, co-owned by Steve Tisch, won against Kraft’s Patriots 21-17.
Kraft, CEO of The Kraft Group, has generously donated to Jewish and Israeli causes for years, giving away more than $100 million to health care, education and local needs. Last November, he gave $6 million dollars for the building of the Kraft Family Stadium in Emek Ha’Arazim in Jerusalem. Robert grew up in Brookline, Massachusetts where his father, Harry Kraft, was a dress manufacturer and Jewish lay leader at Congregation Kehillath Israel in Brookline. The Krafts were an observant, Jewish family, and Harry wanted his son to become a rabbi.
Robert graduated from Brookline High School in 1959. He was senior class president but he didn’t join any of his high school sports teams because he attended after-school Hebrew school and refused to play on Shabbos. But Kraft did go on to play on the football team at Columbia University and became class president there as well.
He married Myra Hiatt in June 1963 and they had four sons together. The Krafts were members of Temple Emanuel in Newton, Massachusetts. When Myra passed away from cancer in 2011, all the Patriot players wore a patch on their uniforms with Myra’s initials throughout the 2011-12 season.
In 2016, Kraft was awarded an honorary doctorate in humane letters from Yeshiva University. (Click here to watch his inspiring 2016 commencement speech. Worth the time.)
Arthur Blank, co-founder of Home Depot, donated $75,000 to the Jewish Agency for Israel, $250,000 to the Jewish Community of Greater Phoenix in Scottsdale, $150,000 to the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta and $7 million to the National Jewish Health in Denver for the Pediatric Charity Care Program.
Blank grew up in New York, the son of Max and Molly Blank, and attended Stuyvesant High School in New York City. Blank has six children and three stepchildren. He is a signatory of The Giving Pledge, committing himself to give away at least 50% of his wealth to charity.
There are presently 10 NFL teams with Jewish owners: the Patriots (Kraft), the Falcons (Blank) the Giants (Tisch) the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (the Glazer family), the Minnesota Vikings (Wilf family), the Washington Redskins (Daniel Snyder), the Oakland Raiders (Davis family), the Philadelphia Eagles (Jeffrey Lurie), the Los Angeles Rams (Stan Kroenke), and the Miami Dolphins (Stephen Ross).
But more impressive than the NFL teams that Kraft and Blank own is both of their generosity and commitment to Israel and the Jewish people. They may be in the Super Bowl spotlight for their talented football teams, but above and beyond their victories and defeats is their knowledge of the importance of being a mensch on and off the field, and of using their wealth and influence to help others.