“Seek the favor of Hashem, and He will grant you the desires of your heart.” Psalms 37:5 (The Israel Bible™)
Adam Bisnowaty has recently joined a very exclusive club: the Jewish football player’s league. Drafted in the sixth round by the New York Giants in April, the 23-year-old NFL rookie, a veritable giant himself – 6-foot-6 and 300 pounds – is not shy about his Jewish and Israeli heritage, displaying a Biblical quote in Hebrew on his arm and talking openly about his religion.
“One of the first things I tell people is that I’m Jewish,” Bisnowaty told JTA in a recent interview, acknowledging his own rarity. “People don’t meet a lot of Jewish football players, so I always like to bring that out and just open up, so it’s nice and easy.”
And for anyone else who didn’t know, there’s his tattoo. Reported by the New York Post last month, the eye-catching ink of three Hebrew words making up one of God’s names comes from a verse in the Book of Exodus.
Moshe said to Hashem, “When I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” And Hashem said to Moshe, “Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh”. He continued, “Thus shall you say to the Israelites, ‘Ehyeh sent me to you’”. Exodus 3:13-14
“Ehyeh-asher-ahyeh” translates to, “I am that I am.” Bisnowaty calls it “a statement for my life.”
“I always wanted to symbolize something religiously as well as kind of relate back to who I am, so I thought it was the perfect thing,” Bisnowaty told the Post of choosing his tattoo. “I’m really big on who I am and what I hold myself accountable for and kind of the way I live life.
“In the Torah, you have it related to God, it’s also the other aspect of being able to have something kinda higher than you.”
Bisnowaty, whose father is Israeli, grew up in a practicing Jewish family in Pittsburgh until his parents divorced when he was 12. He never had a bar mitzvah, the Jewish rite of passage into adulthood, for that reason, but he hopes to do so one day, preferably in Israel, which he visited once at age 8.
The beefy offensive lineman still retains elements of cultural Judaism, including diet. He told the Post that while he is not religious, he doesn’t eat pork, and he’s always had “matzah in the cupboard and matzah ball soup, potato pancakes, everything. It’s just how I was raised and just love the food.”
His family celebrates the Jewish holidays, including Passover. Lighting Hanukkah candles, he said, is a “must”.
Bisnowaty follows in the footsteps of a very few other Jewish football players. In terms of contemporaries, brothers Mitch and Geoff Schwartz, also offensive linemen, were both in the NBA from 2012 to 2016. Julian Edelman, who is not halachically (according to Jewish law) a member of the tribe but identifies as Jewish through his father, gained football fame during last year’s Super Bowl, when he helped his team, the New England Patriots, to victory with a miraculous catch.
Over the decades, a number of Jewish football players have made it to the big leagues. In a top-10 lineup, the American Jewish Historical Society listed the best Jewish footballers last year in order of skill. Edelman came in fourth after Hall-of-Famers Side Luckman and Benny Friedman, both quarterbacks, and lineman Ron Mix.