The Jewish Sport Report: Meet Jessica Berman, trailblazing Jewish commissioner of the National Women’s Soccer League


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Good afternoon, and happy football season! The NFL kicked off last night with a thrilling 21-20 victory by the Detroit Lions over the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs. Check out all the Jewish players to watch here, and read on for their Week 1 schedule below.

How Jewish values inspire Jessica Berman in the effort to grow women’s soccer

Jessica Berman

NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman holds the trophy during the NWSL Cup Final game between the Kansas City Current and Portland Thorns FC at Audi Field in Washington, D.C., Oct. 29, 2022. (Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

Jessica Berman has as impressive a resume as anybody in sports.

The Jewish Brooklyn native is now the commissioner of the National Women’s Soccer League after stints in leadership roles with the National Lacrosse League (where she made history as a woman executive in a men’s league) and the NHL. As a labor lawyer, she also worked with the NFL, MLB and NBA.

As she works to grow women’s soccer, Berman told me she is inspired by her Jewish upbringing — which included several years at Jewish day school.

“In this role in particular, I’ve never felt more aligned with the values that were instilled in me as a child, which include empowering others and ensuring that there is an equal playing field, that marginalized and underrepresented groups have to support each other and work together,” she said.

Check out our profile of the trailblazer right here.

Halftime report

GOLDEN BOYS. The Israeli under-17 men’s flag football team won its first-ever gold medal at the 2023 European Junior Flag Football Championships last weekend in Italy — even after forfeiting a game that fell on Shabbat.

HISTORY. A new film that just debuted at the Venice International Film Festival is based on Iran’s policy of boycotting Israeli athletes. “Tatami” was filmed in secret and is being billed as the first-ever film co-directed by an Israeli and an Iranian.

YER OUTTA HERE. A fan was ejected from a U.S. Open match earlier this week after allegedly chanting a Nazi anthem at German star player Alexander Zverev. The No. 12 seed stopped the match and told the umpire, “He just said the most famous Hitler phrase there is in this world. It’s not acceptable.”

GO COCO. Speaking of the U.S. Open, American star Coco Gauff — who just became the youngest American to reach the finals since Serena Williams in 1999 — has received support and inspiration from a number of Jewish sources. Gauff is being advised by Brad Gilbert, a former star player who now coaches and works as a TV analyst, and she got a custom-made bag from Jewish designer Susan Alexandra.

CURRY WITH THE ASSIST. The Israeli cybersecurity startup Upwind just raised $50 million, raising its value to $300 million total. Retired Israeli NBA player Omri Caspi and his former Golden State Warriors teammate Stephen Curry are among the company’s many investors.

Jews in sports to watch this weekend


It’s Week 1 in the NFL, do you know where your Jewish players are? Here’s the schedule:

  • Sunday at 1 p.m. ET: Greg Joseph and the Minnesota Vikings host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, while Michael Dunn and the Cleveland Browns face the Cincinnati Bengals.
  • Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET: A.J. Dillon and the Green Bay Packers play the Chicago Bears, and Jake Curhan and the Seattle Seahawks take on the Los Angeles Rams.


Last month’s American League Rookie of the Month Zack Gelof — who clobbered eight doubles, seven home runs and 15 RBI in 27 August games — plays the Texas Rangers this weekend with his Oakland Athletics, while fellow Team Israel alum Spencer Horwitz and the Toronto Blue Jays match up against the Kansas City Royals. Jewish relievers Eli Morgan and Kenny Rosenberg will be in opposing bullpens this weekend as their Cleveland Guardians and Los Angeles Angels face off.


Captain Steve Birnbaum and his D.C. United play the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET. The 32-year-old California native won a silver medal with the U.S. team at the 2012 Pan American Maccabi Games in Brazil.

Matzah ballin’

In case you missed it, the New York Mets celebrated Jewish Heritage Night last weekend. The festivities included a ceremonial first pitch thrown by Tsach Saar, the acting consul general of Israel in New York, and a performance from Jewish rapper Matisyahu, who also threw out a first pitch of sorts

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