Sunday, Rabbi Shais Taub of the Chabad Lubavitch of Wisconsin led a group of 10 Orthodox Jews on a pilgrimage from Milwaukee deep into Packerland.They tailgated across the street from Lambeau, in a grass-covered parking lot, next door to Kroll’s West, where butter burgers – definitely not kosher – are a specialty.
And they prayed, with some of the men and their sons donning a prayer shawl called a tallit and phylacteries, two small leather boxes containing verses of Scripture.
They stood out amid the familiar green-and-gold sea. And they showed that people can find or express their faith at a house of worship or a house of sports.
Such a place, for morning prayers.
“What’s the point?” Taub said. “Number one, Judaism is not relegated to the synagogue or the study hall. When you’re a Jew, you’re a Jew everywhere. If a group of Jews want to go to a Packer game, we do it like Jews.”
“Number two, Jewish pride,” he added. “Some Jews should see this and say, ‘You know what, there is nothing to hide.’ I can be openly and boldly Jewish and do that anywhere on earth and go where I want to go.”
Nearby, a few fans wore blank expressions on their faces, unsure of what was going on. A couple of people snapped photos. And nobody noticed that among the group was former Packers offensive lineman Alan Veingrad, who is now known as Shlomo Veingrad.
Veingrad still stands 6 feet 5, but he has dropped plenty of weight since his playing days. He now has a bushy, gray beard and beneath a Packers cap, he makes sure to wear a yarmulke.
“I think it’s important to be proud of being Jewish,” said Veingrad, who played for the Packers in the late 1980s and won a Super Bowl ring with the Dallas Cowboys in the 1990s.
The above story came to my attention earlier this morning when WFAN’s Craig Carton read it over the air, to the musical accompaniment of a Matisyahu CD (ouch). Though Carton was quick to characterize the gawking Packer backers as “anti-semites”, it was somewhat telling that the former Jersey Guy professed to never having heard of Chabad Lubavitch, while fuddy-duddy straight man Boomer Esiason plead ignorance when the matter of kosher brats came up (“I have no idea how something becomes kosher”).
So what’s lamer? A bunch of Wisconsin football fans who’ve never seen an Orthodox jew, or a pair of radio hosts who’ve lived and worked in the New York area for years who aren’t even slightly embarrassed at being cultural unaware?