We’ve all heard the stereotype that Jews just aren’t that good at sports—particularly a sport like football, where size and aggression matter. But two Jewish players—Gabe Carimi and Adam Podlesh—have joined the Chicago Bears this season and three Jewish college students from Chicago’s North Shore will be playing on Ivy League football teams this year. Take that, stereotype!
Abe Dube, a freshman at Brown University, is a recent graduate of Evanston Township High School and a Solomon Schechter alum. Growing up, he always played baseball and throughout high school, the football coach kept asking him to play for him—at 6 foot 5, 270 pounds, it was no wonder why. So in the summer before his sophomore year Abe gave football a try. He spent his junior year on the bench but played offensive linebacker his senior year and made academic all state. He called it “the best year of his life.”
He couldn’t wait to get to Providence and get into college life.
“I [get to play] Division 1 football and I’m also going to get a great education,” he said.
While his Jewish identity doesn’t much play into his attitude on the field, he said it has taught him a thing or two about how to be a good teammate.
“Judaism taught me to be tight knit with the people around [me],” Dube said. “I think of everyone on my football team as my brothers.”
Jordan Reisner, who will be returning to Brown University as a sophomore this year and graduated from Highland Park High School in 2010, also did not start playing football until his sophomore year. At first his father did not want him to play, but after he returned home from overnight camp one summer still driven to play, his father let him give it a shot. Now he plays running back on a team of 106 players, where only six are Jewish—a big difference coming from Highland Park where he never felt in the minority as a Jewish player.
“I’ve never felt any athletic adversity because I was Jewish,” Jordan said. “Everyone is really accepting of one another [at Brown].”
“Obviously any kid’s dream is to play in the NFL—it’s definitely in my future vision,” Jordan said. But long term, he wants to be involved in business.
Jordan’s high school teammate, Cole Stern, also of Highland Park, will be playing receiver this year for the University of Pennsylvania. As the grandchild of Holocaust survivors, Cole has a strong Jewish identity—he became a bar mitzvah in Israel and played basketball in the Maccabi Games in Israel.
Having always been a strong basketball player, when he got to high school, Cole decided to try football. A week into the season his freshman year, he made the varsity team and for four years played varsity football, basketball and track.
It was during his junior year that he first started getting contacted by schools to play football and he knew U Penn was the right place for him as soon as he set foot on campus.
“When you tell people you’re Jewish they’re kind of of shocked because of that stereotype,” Cole said. “Being a Jewish athlete—I think it’s awesome.”
Cole, Jordan and Abe all think it’s great that three guys from the North Shore are now playing on Ivy League football teams.
“It shows that we have more in mind than just football,” Cole said. “We’re able to play the sport we love and at the same time get a top notch education.”
Jordan says all three players are well-deserving of the positions they are in. “It goes without saying that we’ve put in just as much effort off the field as we have on,” he said. “I’m glad to represent.”