When the New York Giants and New England Patriots take the field for Sunday’s Super Bowl, most of the country will focus on the athletes wearing the jerseys. However, from a Jewish perspective, the story behind these football franchises comes from those wearing suits in the owner’s box.
The Giants are co-owned by the Tisch family, with film and television producer Steve Tisch, son of Bob, as the team’s chairman and executive vice president. Bob’s brother, Larry, was the father of Jim—former president of the UJA Federation of New York and former board chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Jim’s wife, Merryl, chairs the board of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty.
On the New England side, owner Robert Kraft’s wife Myra—who passed away last July—served as chair of the Boston-based Combined Jewish Philanthropies’ (CJP) board of directors and was twice co-chair of CJP’s annual fundraising campaign.
“[Myra Kraft’s] work with us was extraordinary and she meant the world to us, she still means the world to us,” Zamira Korff, CJP’s senior vice president of development, told JointMedia News Service. “Her legacy is with us everyday. There are countless meetings and conversations during which we say ‘Can you imagine what Myra would have thought about this,’ or ‘What would Myra have done about this’? We feel that she’s still a partner, that’s how strong her presence was and that’s how strong her guidance was.”
Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice president of the Conference of Presidents, told JointMedia News Service that members of the Giants’ owning family are all “identified [religiously] and active philanthropically.”
“I think that the Tisch family is a model for the Jewish community and for others in terms of their broad range of commitments in the Jewish community, their involvement personally, not just financially,” Hoenlein said.
Outside of CJP, the Kraft family’s philanthropy extends to Brandeis University, The United Way, The Boys and Girls Club, and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), among other causes. The family donated millions to Kraft Stadium in Jerusalem, which promotes American football in the Jewish homeland.
Korff recalls a CJP trip to that stadium, where Myra sought to be a pioneer for women’s football in Israel. When Myra arrived at the venue, Korff said women who were in a team practice at the time ran over to her “like she was their best friend.”
“This was a woman who shared herself with them,” Korff said. “She was really their partner, not just in helping to create the sport, but in helping them to live up to their potential.”
Israel “has always been very important both to Myra and to Robert,” Korff explained.
“She was very proud of leading trips of both Jewish and non-Jewish members of our community to Israel, because she knew that it was equally as vital to both of them, and to participate in that together,” Korff said.
Korff said she has “never seen a better team” than the Kraft couple.
“It’s about integrity, and justice, and teamwork, and cooperation, and shared values,” she said, “and I think that’s what they bring to everything that they do, and that includes their philanthropy.”