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Sunday, February 07, 2010

An offensive tackle named Shlomo

On Super Sunday (I'm rooting for the Saints and not driving somewhere with cable or staying up all night to watch - I only do that for the Patriots), this story is too good not to post.
In his locker, Mr. Veingrad found the usual stuff, his street clothes and sweat suit and playbook. On a small bench, though, lay a note from the Packers’ receptionist. It carried a name that Mr. Veingrad did not recognize, Lou Weinstein, and a local phone number.

Alone in a new town, too naïve to be wary, Mr. Veingrad called. This Lou Weinstein, it turned out, ran a shoe store in Green Bay, Wis. He had just read an article in the paper about a Jewish player on the Packers, and he wanted to meet and welcome that rarity.

A few days later, Mr. Veingrad joined Mr. Weinstein for lunch at the businessman’s golf club. There Mr. Weinstein invited the player to accompany his family to Rosh Hashana services at Cnesses Israel, a synagogue near the site of the Packers’ original home field, City Stadium.

It had been a long time since Mr. Veingrad had spent much time in shul, nearly a decade since his bar mitzvah. He knew the date of the Packers’ Monday night game against the Chicago Bears better than he did Yom Kippur. “But when I heard the Hebrew,” he recently recalled of that service in Green Bay, “I felt a pull.”

Maybe it was a presentiment, maybe it was the sort of destiny that Yiddish calls “goyrl.” Whatever the word for it, something stirred into motion. And that something brought Mr. Veingrad into the Chabad House — a Jewish center run by the Lubavitcher Hasidic movement — near the University of Southern California campus here five nights before the 2010 Super Bowl.

A promotional flier announced the evening’s subject as “Super Bowl to Super Jew.” There was truth in that advertising. Mr. Veingrad goes these days by his Hebrew name, Shlomo. He wore a black skullcap and the ritual fringes called tzitzit; he wore the Super Bowl ring he won in 1992 with the Dallas Cowboys and the Rolex watch that was a gift from Emmitt Smith, the team’s star running back.
Read the whole thing - it's too good to miss. By the way, it was announced yesterday that Emmitt Smith is being inducted into the Hall of Fame. Veingard will be in a different Hall of Fame - a much more important one.


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