The Jewish Sport Report: American football is on the rise in Israel


This article was sent as a newsletter. Sign up for our weekly Jewish sports newsletter here. 

Hello, Jewish sports fans!

The Australian Open is in full swing. Here’s how each of the players we mentioned last week have fared so far:

  • Madison Brengle: Lost in the first round in both singles and doubles.
  • Taylor Fritz: Eliminated after a second round upset on Wednesday.
  • Camila Giorgi: Faces No. 12 Belinda Bencic in the third round tonight. Giorgi is weathering criticism over an alleged falsified vaccine card.
  • Aslan Karatsev: Out after losing in the first round in both singles and doubles.
  • Diego Schwartzman: Upset in the second round in singles; lost in the first round in doubles.
  • Denis Shapovalov: Defeated by No. 10 Hubert Hurkacz in the third round today.

And then there was one…

‘Hebrew in the Huddle’

American football is gaining steam in Israel. (Doron Dotan)

Basketball and soccer are hands-down the most popular sports in Israel, but another game is gaining steam across the country: American football.

American Football in Israel (AFI) kicks off its latest season this week, with around 2,000 players, coaches and referees involved throughout the country.

The sport has been supported by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who learned about Israeli football through a chance encounter in the lobby of the King David Hotel in 1999. He has since sponsored leagues, donated millions of dollars to build stadiums and remains an active presence in the development of the game.

For AFI president Steve Leibowitz, the current state of the sport represents a culmination of three decades of work.

“The craziness was sticking with it all these years, for over 30 years, and making it into a life ambition to establish the sport in Israel, because I think it’s a good sport. I think it has a place in this country,” Leibowitz told me. “I think we’ve proven that. And together with that we’ve created a community. So at this point, I can’t even leave if I wanted to, because I’m like the grandfather, except they still make me suit up and play on old timers’ days.”

Learn more about the history — and future — of Israeli football.

Halftime report

FIGHTING BACK. At some Brooklyn gyms, the idea of combating antisemitism has taken on a more literal meaning. The New York Jewish Week reports that many Jews in the New York borough have taken up krav maga, the Israeli martial art, to help defend themselves from attacks.

NOT ON OUR WATCH. The English Premier League club Arsenal is investigating two antisemitic incidents that occurred in and around the stadium last weekend. “We recognise the impact this behaviour has on our many Jewish supporters and others and condemn the use of language of this nature, which has no place in our game or society,” the club said in a statement.

BIRD IN THE RAFTERS. The Seattle Storm announced they will retire Sue Bird’s No. 10 jersey in June. The WNBA legend retired after this past season, concluding a remarkable career that spanned continents and included countless accolades.

BREAKING JEWS: The Jewish baseball world was sent into a frenzy this week when we learned that Chicago White Sox ace Dylan Cease was considering playing for Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic — meaning he was eligible for Israeli citizenship. Cease confirmed to the Forward that his father’s family is Jewish, adding, “I don’t necessarily identify as it, but acknowledge it’s in my ancestry.”

WELCOME TO THE CLUB. One player who does identify as Jewish is Philadelphia Phillies rookie Dalton Guthrie, who is the latest MLB player to be confirmed as Jewish by Jewish Baseball News.

Jews in sports to watch this weekend


Italian Jewish tennis star Camila Giorgi plays in the third round of the Australian Open tonight, tentatively scheduled for 8:15 p.m. ET, but check the tournament website for the most up-to-date timing.


Quinn Hughes and the Vancouver Canucks take on Zach Hyman and the Edmonton Oilers Saturday at 10 p.m. ET. On Sunday at 2 p.m. ET, watch Jason Zucker and the Pittsburgh Penguins face off against Jack Hughes and the New Jersey Devils.


Deni Avdija and the Washington Wizards host the Orlando Magic tomorrow at 7 p.m. ET. Motor City Cruise Orthodox prospect Ryan Turell does not have a game this weekend, but you can vote for Turell to play in the new G League Next Up game during the NBA’s All-Star Weekend. And while you’re at it, vote for Avdija for the NBA All-Star Game, too.

And the 2023 Baseball Hall of Fame inductees are…

The results of the 2023 National Baseball Hall of Fame ballot will be announced Tuesday at 6 p.m. ET on MLB Network. There are no Jewish candidates this year, but the man sharing the results is Josh Rawitch, the Jewish president of the Hall — who I profiled for JTA last year.