A Jewish guide to the NFL playoffs
Running back A.J. Dillon of the Green Bay Packers celebrates after rushing for a first half touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens in Baltimore, Dec. 19, 2021. Dillon, one of two remaining Jewish players in the NFL playoffs will compete against the Dallas Cowboys at ATT Stadium Sunday, Jan. 14, 2024. (Photo: Rob Carr/Getty Images)

By Jacob Gurvis
January 12, 2024

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(JTA) — Hi there! Before we get into this week’s news, a quick birthday shoutout is in order for Holocaust survivor and Olympic legend Agnes Keleti, who turned 103 (!!) on Tuesday.

Keleti is the oldest living Olympic gold medalist in the world and has the second-most Olympic medals of any Jewish athlete ever, second only to swimming icon Mark Spitz. Check out our 2019 interview with the gymnastics champion.

Your Jewish NFL playoffs preview

The NFL playoffs kick off tomorrow, and two Jewish players remain standing as the wild card round begins: A.J. Dillon and Michael Dunn.

Dunn, the 315-pound guard, appeared in 12 games for the Cleveland Browns this season, starting two of them. He played 29% of offensive snaps for the Browns, roughly double his percentage over the previous two seasons, despite spending a month on the injured reserve.

The Browns (11-6) enter the playoffs as the AFC’s 5th seed, and face the Houston Texans (10-7) Saturday at 4:30 p.m. ET on NBC/Peacock.

Dillon, who started six games for the Green Bay Packers during the regular season, set a career high with a 40-yard rush in November. Otherwise, he had a bit of a down year in terms of yards and touchdowns. Dillon has previously joked about missing Hebrew School for football practice when he was a kid.

The Packers (9-8), who snuck in as the NFC’s 7th seed, face the Dallas Cowboys (12-5) Sunday at 4:30 p.m. on Fox.

Read more about Dunn and Dillon — plus the league’s other Jewish players who didn’t make the postseason — here.

Halftime report

OUT OF BOUNDS. A New York high school fired its varsity girl’s basketball coach after players used antisemitic slurs during a game against a Jewish day school. The school district and the city’s mayor apologized and called the antisemitic epithets “painful and offensive.”

UNCAPPED. On the eve of the U19 Men’s Cricket World Cup, David Teeger, a rising star on South Africa’s cricket scene, has been removed as the country’s team captain due to threats he and the team have faced over Israel’s war in Gaza.

CHAIM BLOOMS IN ST. LOUIS. Former Boston Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom has joined the St. Louis Cardinals front office as an advisor to the team’s president of baseball operations, John Mozeliak. Bloom was fired by the Red Sox in September as the team placed last in the AL East with a record of 78-84.

SURELY YOU CAN’T BE SERIOUS. If you read this newsletter, chances are you’re probably familiar with that (in)famous joke about “Famous Jewish Sports Legends” in the 1980 comedy “Airplane!” In a book that explores the history of the cult classic, the movie’s three Jewish creators reminisce about how it got made — including the inspiration behind that sports reference.

STUDY BREAK? NFL star Aaron Rodgers appeared Thursday on “The Pat McAfee Show,” the popular ESPN talk show he had supposedly been suspended from earlier this week. During the program, Jewish fans immediately noticed something peculiar about Rodgers’ background: he appeared to be seated in front of a bookshelf full of Jewish books. We reached out to Rodgers’ agents to get to the bottom of this — stay tuned.

MAZELS. Congratulations to Andrea Kremer, Jayson Stark and the late Roger Kahn, who are all part of the National Sports Media Association’s 2024 Hall of Fame class; and Jeff Passan, who was named the NSMA’s 2023 National Sportswriter of the Year.

THE KING RETURNS. Israeli soccer star Manor Solomon is preparing to return to his Premier League Club Tottenham after being sidelined since October with a meniscus injury. The winger is aiming to return to training next week and could see playing time later this month.

LONG SHOT. Jewish golfer Max Homa, who is currently ranked No. 7 in the PGA Tour’s world rankings, made golf history last weekend with a 477-yard drive — the longest drive recorded in the PGA’s StatLink Era, which dates back to 2003, and possibly ever.

Jews in sports to watch this weekend

🏀 IN BASKETBALL…

Deni Avdija and the Washington Wizards face the Atlanta Hawks Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET. The Wizards are having a rough season, but the Israeli forward is having a career year in just about every offensive category, including an average of 12 points per game. Domantas Sabonis, who is converting to Judaism, and his Sacramento Kings take on the Philadelphia 76ers tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET and the Milwaukee Bucks Saturday at 7 p.m. ET. In the G League, Ryan Turell and the Motor City Cruise host the College Park Skyhawks Saturday at 7 p.m. ET, while Amari Bailey and the Greensboro Swarm host the Capital City Go-Go tonight at 7 p.m. ET and the Osceola Magic Saturday at 6 p.m. ET.

🏒 IN HOCKEY…

Devon Levi and the Buffalo Sabres host Quinn Hughes and the Vancouver Canucks Saturday at 4 p.m. ET. Zach Hyman and the Edmonton Oilers face the Montreal Canadiens Saturday at 7 p.m. ET. Adam Fox and the New York Rangers take on the Washington Capitals Saturday and Sunday, both at 1 p.m. ET.

⛳️ IN GOLF… 

David Lipsky is competing at the Sony Open in Hawaii this weekend.

The Pittsburgh Steelers give tzedakah

The Pittsburgh Steelers are supporting the local chapter of the Jewish social justice nonprofit Repair the World as part of the team’s Social Justice Matching Fund, in which they donated nearly $500,000 to 35 community organizations. The Pittsburgh chapter of Repair the World, a national group with a presence in 13 cities nationwide, received $2,000 from the team.

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