Tonight, Coach Marc Trestman faces his first test as he sends his players to face the rival Green Bay Packers
Head Coach Marc Trestman of the Chicago Bears watches warm-ups before a game against the San Diego Chargers at Soldier Field on Aug. 15, 2013, in Chicago. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
I wish it weren’t true, but the one piece of relevant rabbinical wisdom ever dispensed my way was from a rabbi trying to get me to join his study group. When I told him that I couldn’t make it because I had tickets to see the Chicago Bears play, he forced a smile, let out a sigh, and said something that has since become not just my excuse to continue rooting for sports teams from my hometown, but also my mantra when the season ends: “Being a Chicago fan and being a Jew have a lot in common: You wait and you wait, and there’s a lot of suffering.”
Even thought I didn’t—and still don’t—want to admit he was right, it’s the truth. There was Michael Jordan’s Bulls, or the Blackhawks’ bids for greatness after decades coming up short, but then there are the Cubs: 100-plus years of wandering in the desert, searching for that elusive World Series championship, making them easily the saddest franchise in American sports. Yet I still find myself cheering for the Cubs long hot summer after long hot summer. Mine is a thankless faith, one that I’m told should finally pay off now that the team has hired former Red Sox Jewish wunderkind Theo Epstein to help do for Chicago what he did for Boston. They say Epstein could get us to the World Series, but I’m skeptical, and I have history on my side.
I tend to give up hope on the Cubs by the middle of the season, but with Chicago’s football team, the Bears, who usually play through the city’s hellishly cold winter, I try and hold out hope a little longer. And after more than 25 years of using the same formula of a powerhouse defense in their fruitless bid to re-capture the lightning in a bottle responsible for their 1985 Super Bowl win—with what football fans consider one of the, if not the, best single season team in the history of the sport—the Bears are finally taking some risks.
During the recent off-season, the Chicago Bears fired their coach since 2006, Lovie Smith, and hired Marc Trestman: formerly the Canadian Football League Championship-winning head coach of the Montreal Alouettes; NFL experience relegated to a short stint as an offensive coordinator; quarterback coach for several teams; and gifted with the ability to shape young sportsmen, earning him a reputation as something of a guru. And now, the guy I am going to place all my Super Bowl hopes and dreams on.
“The Rabbi!” a burly guy in a Walter Payton #34 jersey stood up and yelled as Trestman took the field as the Bears’ head coach for his first game, against the Cincinnati Bengals, on Sept. 8. I wasn’t watching from anywhere near Soldier Field; instead, I was at Canal Bar in Brooklyn, the weekly meeting place for Windy City expats like myself and the big guy chugging his afternoon High Life and screaming at the television. Against my better judgment, I decided to ask him where that nickname for the new coach came from.
“Because he’s Jewish,” he said, without looking at me, waving his hand in hopes of catching the swamped bartender’s eye.
Trestman is the rare Jewish football coach in a sport that hasn’t always elicited the same connection for American Jews that baseball has. He grew up in St. Louis Park, the same Minneapolis suburb that has, somewhat inexplicably, spawned a number of talented Jews, including the filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen, the former comedian and now Sen. Al Franken, and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. Trestman was the Bears’ coach, therefore he was my coach; but he was also my people, which is something I honestly never thought I’d hear myself say.
We used to joke in my family that we were Jewish Chicago Bears fans. Getting ready for a Sunday game was more of a tradition than cleaning the house before Passover or making challah for Shabbat, and preparation for any given Bears game called for plenty of food and pre-game prayers that the team could deliver us to victory. Our devotion was thanks in large part to a player who helped revolutionize not only the quarterback position, but also the game itself: Sid Luckman, a Columbia-educated kid from Brooklyn who played during the Bears’ glory days of the 1940s, when they won four NFL championships.
Chicagoans whose ancestors saw Luckman play still regard the Bears as the city’s “Jewish team.” There have been others since—for the past two seasons, the Bears had offensive tackle “Bear Jew” Gabe Carimi before trading him to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this past July, and there was the forgettable tenure of Rex Grossman who, thankfully, only had a name like a Jew, but in fact, wasn’t. But because Bears founder George Halas, in all his football wisdom, decided to take a chance on making Luckman the centerpiece of his team in 1939, it was the Bears—not the Cubs, the Bulls, the Blackhawks, or the White Sox on the South Side—who gave Chicago its greatest Jewish sports hero.
Menachem Begin in December 1942 wearing the Polish Army uniform of Gen. Anders’ forces with his wife Aliza and David Yutan; (back row) Moshe Stein and Israel Epstein
(photo credit: JABOTINSKY ARCHIVES)
During the inauguration of a memorial to the victims of the Siege of Leningrad in Jerusalem’s Sacher Park on January 24, 2020, before the climax of Holocaust remembrance events at which Russian President Vladimir Putin was given a central platform, we were stunned to hear a rendition of The Blue Kerchief (Siniy
Giant figures are seen during the 87th carnival parade of Aalst February 15, 2015
The annual carnival in Aalst, Belgium, is expected to take place on Sunday with even more antisemitic elements than in previous years.
Aalst’s organizers have sold hundreds of “rabbi kits” for revelers to dress as hassidic Jews in the carnival’s parade. The kit includes oversized noses, sidelocks (peyot) and black hats. The organizers plan to bring back floats similar to the one displayed in 2019 featuring oversized dolls of Jews, with rats on their shoulders, holding banknotes.
Pope Francis waves as he arrives at the Basilica of Saint Nicholas in the southern Italian coastal city of Bari, Italy February 23, 2020. Photo: REUTERS/Remo Casilli.
Pope Francis on Sunday warned against “inequitable solutions” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying they would only be a prelude to new crises, in an apparent reference to US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace proposal.
Francis made his comments in the southern Italian port city of Bari, where he traveled to conclude a meeting of bishops from all countries in the Mediterranean basin.
Palestinians walk past a shop selling fruits in Ramallah, Feb. 20, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Mohamad Torokman.
Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) have reached an agreement to end a five-month long trade dispute, officials said on Thursday.
The dispute, which opened a new front in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, began in September when the PA announced a boycott of Israel calves. The PA exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank under interim peace deals.
Antisemitic caricatures on display at the annual carnival in Aalst, Belgium. Photo: Raphael Ahren via Twitter.
Disturbing images emerged on Sunday of the annual carnival at Aalst, Belgium, showing an astounding number of antisemitic themes, costumes, displays and statements.
Israeli journalist Raphael Ahren documented people dressed as caricatures of Orthodox Jews, a fake “wailing wall” attacking critics of the parade, blatantly antisemitic characters and puppets wearing traditional Jewish clothes and sporting huge noses.
Feb 02, 2020 0The remarks from the US official came in wake of the Palestinian decision to reject the administration’s peace plan. US PRESIDENT Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrive to...
The stench of anti-Semitism always hovers over Switzerland’s Lake Geneva when the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is meeting there. The foul emanations reached a new nadir last week with UNHRC’s publication of a “database” of companies doing business in the disputed territories in Israel.
Following the publication of the list, Bruno Stagno Ugarte, deputy director for advocacy of NGO Human Rights Watch, stated, “The long-awaited release of the U.N. settlement business database should put all companies on notice: To do business with illegal settlements [sic] is to aid in the commission of war crimes.”
One of the many things that annoys me about politicians is how sure they are of themselves. Everything is black and white. Every idea is good or bad. Take globalism, for example. You either love it or hate it. It works or it doesn’t.
Another thing that annoys me is how so much of a politician’s life revolves around power: Do everything you can to get it, and everything you can to keep it.
Why am I ranting? Because, while our politicians have been consumed with power and the media with the fights over power, a threat to our nation has been virtually ignored.
Blue and White Party leaders Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid are establishing their diplomatic credentials in the immediate run-up to Israel’s March 2 election with an insult to a U.S. administration that has arguably provided Israel with more diplomatic gains than any previous administration.
The Times of Israel reported that at a campaign stop in front of English-speaking Israelis, Gantz accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “of neglecting bipartisan ties in favor of exclusive support from U.S. President Donald Trump’s Republican Party,” under the headline “Gantz pledges to mend ties with U.S. Democrats if elected.”
Bipartisanship was in short supply at the State of the Union address earlier this month—with one notable exception.
Nancy Pelosi had been looking dyspeptic, shuffling the papers she would later rip to shreds, when President Donald Trump reminded his audience that “the United States is leading a 59-nation diplomatic coalition against the socialist dictator of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro.”
Suddenly, the House Speaker applauded. Trump then introduced “the true and legitimate president of Venezuela: Juan Guaidó.”
The law professor Alan Dershowitz has thrown a legal hand-grenade into America’s political civil war by claiming to have evidence that former President Barack Obama “personally asked” the FBI to investigate someone “on behalf” of Obama’s “close ally,” billionaire financier George Soros.
He made his cryptic remark in an interview defending U.S. President Donald Trump against claims he interfered in the prosecution of his former adviser, Roger Stone.