Jews in the News: Robert Kraft, Jeffrey Lurie and George Burns

Super Bowl Notes

The 52nd Super Bowl takes place on Feb. 4. The New England Patriots, last year’s winner, are looking for a repeat win. The Philadelphia Eagles were the surprise team of the playoffs and are looking for their first Super Bowl win in franchise history. The Eagles have appeared in two Super Bowls (most recently in 2005, when they lost to the Patriots). The Patriots have appeared in 9 Super Bowls, winning 5 (all wins came in 2002 or later).

Sadly, Patriots’ special teams’ superstar NATE EBNER, 29, suffered a knee injury in November and is out for the season. Patriots’ star receiver Julian Edelman suffered an ACL tear last September that ended his season. As I noted last year, Ebner grew-up in a religious Jewish home. Edelman had one Jewish great grandfather, but has called himself Jewish and he’s gone out of his way to emphasize his ties to the Jewish community (including visiting Israel).

ROBERT KRAFT, 76, has owned the Patriots since 1994. Kraft grew-up in an Orthodox home and is an observant Jew whose family fortune stems from a paper products company (Kraft Group). His many philanthropies include Israel, education, and health care. His son JONATHAN, 53, is the President of the Kraft Group and President of the Patriots.

The Eagles are owned by JEFFREY LURIE, 66, and his ex-wife CHRISTINA WEISS LURIE, 57. Lurie’s wealth stems from a movie theater chain founded by his grandfather. He grew-up in the Boston area and tried to buy the Patriots in 1993. But Bob Kraft won out. Lurie then bought the Eagles in 1994. Jeffrey and Christina divorced in 2012 and she retains substantial ownership in the team. Despite her first name, Christina’s parents were both Jewish. In a 2010 interview, she said both she and Jeffrey come from secular Jewish homes and their practice of Judaism was limited to Passover Seders. Both have academic backgrounds in film and she was a documentary maker. Jeffrey is an active film producer, mostly of documentaries. He briefly appeared as himself in “Jerry Maguire,” the hit fictional film about pro football.

Curious, I looked up what the half-time entertainer at a Super Bowl makes (this year it is Justin Timberlake). The NFL says that they do not pay performers, but cover costs (costs can range up to an astonishing $10 million). In return for their “free” performance, entertainers get the biggest commercial of the year, enhanced recordings sales, and they can charge more for concerts and endorsements. Until 1987, Super Bowl performers were mostly marching bands and choral groups. In 1987, the Bowl went a bit more showbiz and the named performers were showbiz vets GEORGE BURNS, then 91, and Mickey Rooney, then 67. In 2001, the band Aerosmith was the headliner (their drummer, JOEY KRAMER, now 67, is Jewish). In 2009, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band performed (the band includes drummer MAX WEINBERG, now 66, and keyboardist ROY BITTAN, now 68). Finally, in 2016, a Jewish entertainer again got solo credit as a performer—MARK RONSON, now 42, played guitar as Bruno Mars sang “Uptown Funk” (a song they co-wrote). I dare say that nobody at a Bowl party will guess that George Burns was the first Jew to be a credited halftime entertainer at a Super Bowl. Take bets and see what happens.

Kunis and Rudd: Man and Woman of the Year

 Harvard’s Hasty Pudding Theatricals club honored PAUL RUDD, 48, and MILA KUNIS, 34, as their respective man and woman of the year on Jan. 25. The country’s oldest theater organization (founded in 1844) gives the award annually to “performers who have made lasting and impressive contributions to the world of entertainment.” The honorees were treated to a fun-filled parade before they are presented with the “Pudding Pot” in Farkas Hall, the Hastys’ historic home in Harvard Square. The woman of the year award began in 1951 and the man of the year award began in 1967. As of 2018, 13 Jewish men and 10 Jewish women have won the award.

Harvard was an all-male college when Hasty Pudding, a private club, began. Men dressed like women played female characters in club shows. Harvard admitted women in 1977 (when it merged with Radcliffe), but men still played all the women’s parts in club shows. For about a month, activists urged Kunis, among others, to either speak out about this and/or boycott the Hasty Pudding events. On Jan. 25, the Hasty Pudding Club announced that women will be cast, starting next year.


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