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October 2, 2012
Following is a list of Jewish/interfaith players in the NFL as of September 27. Jewish Sports Review helped me compile this list.
By the time players reach the NFL, Jewish Sports Review has run-down virtually every Jewish/interfaith player. Now and again, a player is "uncovered" after he reaches the pros. This happens about once every three years.1
Greg Camarillo, 30, wide receiver, New Orleans Saints
The son of a Jewish mother and a non-Jewish father, Camarillo was raised secular. (His family celebrated both Christmas and Chanukah.) His mother's family is of Hungarian Jewish origin. His father, Albert "Al" Camarillo, the son of a Mexican Catholic immigrant, is a professor of American History at Stanford University. This year (2012-2013), he is president of the prestigious Organization of American Historians.
Greg Camarillo graduated from Stanford in 2005. He was signed by the San Diego Chargers and played for them until September, 2007. He played for Miami from 2007-2009. In August, 2010, he was traded to Minnesota. He did not have a very productive 2011-2012 season with the Vikings and was released at the end of the season. New Orleans signed him near the end of August, but cut him just before the season began. But fate, in a sense, smiled on him, and New Orleans re-signed him on September 11, following injuries to three other wide receivers.
Update: On September 27, Camarillo, who had appeared in two games, was released by the Saints. There's a possibility he may latch-on to another team.
Gabe Carimi, 24, right tackle, Chicago Bears
Carimi, who grew up in Wisconsin, had an outstanding college football career at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. In June, 2011, I wrote a long column item about Carimi, in which I described his football accomplishments and highlighted the fact that he is a practicing Jew who made local headlines when he began his Yom Kippur fast early so he could fast for 24 hours while still playing in a critical game that began just before the holiday ended.
As previously noted, Carimi's father is Jewish by birth. His mother is a convert to Judaism, and the family belongs to a Wisconsin synagogue.
Unfortunately, Carimi's pro career to date has not matched his college career. The Bears' first-round draft pick, as the phrase goes, "blew out his knee" in the second game of the 2011-2012 season. He had an operation on his ligaments, but is still not back to 100%. His play in the first two games of this season has been widely criticized as ineffective.
Antonio Garay, 32, nose tackle, San Diego Chargers
Garay, who grew-up in New Jersey, is the son of a Jewish mother and a Catholic father of mixed Puerto Rican, Jamaican and Costa Rican ancestry. Back in 2010, I profiled Garay in depth, noting that he was raised in his mother's faith and that he strongly identifies as Jewish in a religious sense.
Last September, I wrote this about Garay:
[He] is coming off a really amazing year. He broke into the NFL in 2003 and has been on the roster of four different teams. Unfortunately, he suffered from a seemingly endless series of injuries that caused him to be sidelined during all or part of the 2003-2009 seasons. He played in only 16 games total during this six year stretch. Last year, he stayed healthy and played for the Chargers in every season game (16). He started 15 out of those 16 games.
Well, I am glad to say that Garay's strong play continued in the 2011-2012 season. He remained healthy and started 13 out of 16 games, while compiling impressive defensive stats. The bad news is that Garay injured his ankle in the pre-season and has been on injured reserve through September 27. It looks like he is, however, almost ready to start again after sitting out the first regular season games.
Erik Lorig, 25, fullback, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Lorig, like Camarillo, grew up in California and graduated from Stanford University (where he was an outstanding student as well as a top football player). He is the son of a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother. While I don't know as much about his upbringing as some other players on this list, my strong sense is that he was raised completely secular. He signed a four-year contract with Tampa Bay in June, 2010. In 2011-2012, he played in 16 games, starting 7. While his stats were not great, they weren't bad either. There was pre-season talk that he would be turned into a defensive end, his college position. But he played fullback in the team's first two regular season games.
Taylor Mays, 24, strong safety, Cincinnati Bengals
Mays, who is the son of an African-American, non-Jewish father, and a Jewish mother, was raised in his mother's faith. The Seattle born-and-raised Mays was an outstanding college safety at the University of Southern California. While still at USC, I did a column profile on Mays.
Mays was drafted by San Francisco in 2010 and signed to a four-year contract. But things didn't go that well in San Francisco, with new management feeling he didn't fit in with their plans for the team. He lost the starting spot after six games. He was traded to Cincinnati during the off-season and didn't see much playing time with the Bengals in 2011-2012. He is playing back-up safety this season.
Adam Podlesh, 29, punter, Chicago Bears
Podlesh, the son of two Jewish parents, was raised near Rochester, NY, and graduated from the University of Maryland. He was with Jacksonville from 2007-2010. Before the 2011-2012 Season, he was signed to a big-money contract by the Chicago Bears, and he earned his money last season with outstanding punting stats.
Geoff Schwartz, 26, outside linebacker, Minnesota Vikings
Born and raised in Southern California, Schwartz is the son of two Jewish parents. He and his brother, Mitchell (see below), were raised in the Conservative Jewish movement.
Geoff Schwartz played college ball for Oregon and was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in 2008. He started all 16 regular season games for Carolina in 2010 (playing outside tackle), but a hip injury in 2011 caused him to miss the entire season. He signed a free agent contract with the Vikings in the off-season and will play the outside guard position.
This season's only rookie is Geoff's brother, Mitchell Schwartz, 23, outside tackle, Cleveland Browns
An outstanding player at the University of California, Berkeley, he was selected in the second round by the Browns. He was selected in the pre-season to be the Browns starting right tackle. The Schwartz brothers are the first Jewish brothers to play at the same time in the NFL since 1923. I could be wrong, but I believe that pitcher Larry Sherry and his brother, catcher Norm Sherry, who played in the 1950s and 60s, were the only Jewish brother duo to play major league baseball simultaneously. Both played for the Dodgers for most of their careers.
Sadly, the following veterans were released in the off-season or pre-season: Kyle Kosier, 33, outside guard, Dallas Cowboys; Igor Olshansky, 30, defensive end, Miami Dolphins; and Sage Rosenfels, 34, quarterback, Minnesota Vikings.
Kosier is the son of a Jewish mother and a non-Jewish father. Olshansky has two Jewish parents, and Rosenfels is the son of a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother. Rosenfels has a remote chance of being signed this year by a team in quick need of a seasoned quarterback.
Last January, I did a long column item on the engagement of actress Drew Barrymore, 37, who isn't Jewish, and fine art consultant Will Kopelman, 34, who is Jewish. Then, last May, not long before their June 2 wedding, I wrote an update for this column in which I noted that the couple were going to have a Jewish wedding. I also said that Barrymore's press reps denied tabloid reports that Barrymore planned to convert to Judaism.
Well, on September 23, the Sunday Telegraph of Australia surprised me by publishing an interview with Barrymore in which she said she is planning to convert to Judaism.
Veteran readers of this column know that I have often written that some tabloids seem to take delight in making up stories that a non-Jewish celebrity is going to convert to Judaism the minute they start going out with a Jewish person. I have also written that other media outlets, including much of the Jewish community media, too often take these stories as credible and repeat them.
The Sunday Telegraph of Australia interview with Barrymore, however, seems totally legitimate and trustworthy. This newspaper has a better reputation for accuracy than the UK paper of the same name. I checked on the author of the article and she has a track record of serious celebrity interviews and is a member of the organization that gives the Golden Globe® awards. I doubt she would risk her credibility and, possibly, her access to other celebrities by making up a quote from Barrymore about converting.
In the interview, it's confirmed that Kopelman's father is the former CEO of Chanel and he was brought up in a traditional Jewish family. Barrymore is in the process of converting. Barrymore is then quoted as saying,
The religion [Judaism] as a faith is so beautiful and it's so much about family being together, first and foremost. I subscribe to that so much in my own life, so that's a really wonderful and easy transition.
Barrymore, who is expecting the couple's first child in the next few weeks, said this about her husband in the same interview:
I love art so much and it's great to be with somebody that works in that world and appreciates art and teaches me about things when we go to museums and galleries. When you have common interests with someone, although our upbringings are very different and we're quite different people, for us, art is a brilliant bridge.
Here are a few interesting Rosh Hashanah celebs using Twitter I found with an interfaith connection:
Jewish actress Kat Dennings 26, co-star of TV's 2 Broke Girls, tweeted:
Kat Dennings @OfficialKat
Let your Jewishness flag fly on these holy days, y'all #RoshHashanah
Her tweet was retweeted by rap star Drake, 25, who is of interfaith and interracial background. His retweet and his Rosh Hashanah dinner celebration, with two buddies, was the subject of an article on MTV.com.
Here's an interesting quote from the article, in which Drake discussed his bar mitzvah video, which came out last May. Drake shared,
I'm proud, a proud young Jewish boy. When I had a Bar Mitzvah back in the day, my mom really didn't have that much money. We kinda just did it in the basement of an Italian restaurant, which I guess is kinda like a faux pas. I told myself that if I ever got rich, I'd throw myself a re-Bar Mitzvah. That's the concept for the video.
Here's another tweet that may surprise some people:
Sandra Fluke @SandraFluke
Happy #Rosh Hashanah Eve, everyone! L'shanah tovah!
Sandra Fluke, 31, became an unlikely celebrity last February, when the Georgetown University Law School graduate, then a law student, was refused the right to testify before a House hearing on birth control insurance coverage. In August, she was a featured speaker at the Democratic National Convention.
Fluke, who is Protestant, has long been dating Jewish comedian/producer Adam Mutterperl. As most people know, Fluke was the target of vicious attacks by Rush Limbaugh and other Republicans. Those attacks extended over to attacks on Mutterperl and even his father, as explained in a Jewish Telegraph Agency article.
Two players with Jewish ancestry don't appear on the list above because they are not on the Jewish Sports Review roster. The explanation:
Brian de la Puente, 27, center, New Orleans Saints, has been recently removed from the Jewish Sports Review list. Last year, he was featured in my column item on Jewish/interfaith players.
Jewish Sports Review considers an athlete to be Jewish if: (1) the person has at least one Jewish parent who is the child of two Jewish parents; and (2) the person was raised Jewish or secular and does not identify with a faith other than Judaism as an adult; or (3) the person is a convert to Judaism (whether or not they had a Jewish parent and/or were raised in a faith other than Judaism). If a person has just one Jewish grandparent, the Jewish Sports Review would consider them Jewish if the person affirmatively identifies as Jewish.
Jewish Sports Review had received what it believed to be reliable info that De la Puente was the son of a Jewish mother and a non-Jewish father. However, when personally contacted, De la Puente explained that his mother's mother was Jewish, but his maternal grandfather was not Jewish. De la Puente added that he considered himself a "nothing" in religious/ethnic terms. Therefore, De la Puente was dropped from Jewish Sports Review's list.
Adam Goldberg, 32, tackle, Minnesota Vikings, has also never appeared on Jewish Sports Review's list because, while his father is Jewish, he was raised in his mother's Christian faith. Oddly enough, somebody changed Goldberg's Wikipedia biographical entry to say that Jewish Sports Review says that while Goldberg was raised in his mother's faith, he "now considers himself Jewish." Jewish Sports Review has never made that statement.