Recently, I was a guest at a wonderful event at The Green Acres Country Club in Highland Park Illinois. The event that was hosted by University of Wisconsin Madison Hillel featured the newest Chicago Bear Gabe Carimi. The event drew a crowd full of Wisconsin Hillel supporters young and old who wanted a chance to meet and welcome Gabe to Chicago.
During the event I heard from Wisconsin Alumni and the Executive Director who spoke about their new Hochberg Center, which will allow for the Jewish students on campus to have the ultimate Jewish experience. Rachel Lansing, graduate of 2009, spoke about her experience at Hillel and how she has stayed passionate about the organization. It was clear the Wisconsin Hillel was in good shape and having a former player like Gabe Carimi was an added bonus.
Gabe spoke to the audience about his life and football career. After his family moved from Lake Forest to Madison, the Carimis became active in the synagogue. Gabe joked about being taller than the rabbi and the synagogue’s educator. Gabe’s family moved to the north side of Madison, which was very culturally diverse. Gabe and his sister Hannah made a point of it to break down Jewish stereotypes and be a good example for the Jewish community. He regularly attended synagogue and helped out with his Hebrew school. Eventually, Gabe spoke of his playing days. He mentioned red-shirting and learning from now NFLer Joe Thomas.
During the event Gabe was presented with a welcome letter from Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Gabe stayed and schmoozed with the audience. He graciously signed plenty of autographs and took pictures.
I got a chance to speak with both Gabe and his mother Alayne. Alayne was very sweet and welcoming. Turns out she has another athletic child. Hannah rowed crew for Wisconsin. Alayne mentioned that Gabe grew up a Packers fan, but Gabe noted that now Packer fans can root for the Bears 14 games a year. She was very excited for her son to be a part of such a great organization and mentioned the Bears have been great to her family.
Finally, I got to have some one on one time with Gabe. Gabe and I spoke about what he was doing during the lockout. He told me he is currently working out by himself in Madison. He is putting in some time in the weight room, trying to stay in shape and excited for the real NFL experience to begin. He has been relaxing by playing golf. What about his choice in number, #72? His college number was taken and the other numbers were not special, so he thought it would be nice to honor William Perry. Gabe has already spoken with Olin Kruetz and was excited to work with him and protect Jay Cutler. Finally, I asked Gabe what I ask all Chicago athletes, what was his favorite Chicago pizza? He went with Lou Malnatis.
Gabe was a class act and great to the fans and the Hillel. It was a tremendous event. I spoke to Hillel’s Executive Director Greg Steinberger and Development Director Suzanne Rubinstein. Both raved about Gabe’s commitment to the Jewish community. Gabe was at the dedication of the new building, answered interview questions during the Rose Bowl, and was genuinely humbled by the event in his honor. As Suzanne said, “he is just a mensch who gives back to the community.”
This event not only made me proud of Gabe and his connection to the community, but it showed me a great Hillel taking advantage of a great relationship. Ultimately, it got me excited for some football. Bear Down!
And Let Us Say…Amen.