Tuesday, May 26, 2009

How can you resist? Jewish Boy is Drafted by the StL Rams

Bar Mitzvah Boy.

Mark Harrison Rubin, 23, laughed at the question: What’s a nice Jewish boy doing playing professional football?

For anyone with preconceived notions about the fact that Jewish boys don’t play football, a conversation with Rubin will quickly dispel that myth. He played for a Big Ten School - Penn State - and was drafted to play this year for the St. Louis Rams as a strong safety.

Rubin, 6’3 inches and 213 pounds, was born and reared in upstate New York, the son of David and Mary Ellen Rubin. He has an older sister Rachel, 25, with whom he’s very close. Rubin knows where he comes from and where he is going. His roots are grounded in Judaism. He grew in Buffalo, NY., studied Hebrew and had a Bar Mitzvah. His family still belongs to the local JCC.

Rubin's not only physically strong, he’s a “smart jock” who maintained a 3.8 GPA in high school, finished undergraduate school at Penn and entered the MBA program at the University’s Smeal College of Business as a finance major. He's interrupting his studies to play pro ball, but plans to finish at some point.

Because of an outstanding college record, one newspaper referred to him as “an intelligent and versatile player, he combines toughness with physical prowess.” In 2007 Rubin was named to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District Team and is a two-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree.

Those of us in St. Louis will have the good fortune to see a young Jewish athlete launch a professional football career and hope it takes him on a skyrocketing trajectory. We welcome Rubin into our community with open arms.

In an interview with jewishnstlouis.org, Rubin said he’s never been in the Midwest and discussed his Jewish roots, what they mean to him, whether he’ll seek out the St. Louis Jewish community and, of course we had to ask – whether he has a significant other.

Rubin Family and the proud future NFL player
Question: Tell us about your family?

Answer: My Dad, David, was born and raised in Cincinnati and my mother, Mary Ellen, is from Buffalo. He’s a teacher who’s doing substitute teaching right now. My mother is a clinical psychologist who works with families and kids. She got her PH. D. at Indiana University, where my parents met. My sister, Rachel, was a division swimmer for the University of Buffalo. Currently, she’s in a Ph.D. program for cognitive neuroscience at the University of Illinois, Champaign.

Q: How do they feel about their Jewish son opting to become a football player versus the Jewish parents’ stereotypical dream of their son becoming a doctor or a lawyer?

Answer: As far as my parents’ reaction to my passion for football, they’ve have been great about my choices. I couldn’t have made it where I am today without their support both athletically and academically. Growing up with athletics has been a big part of my life… and my sister’s life. We get it from my Dad’s side…he played all kinds of sports -- high school football, track and baseball. I was always interested in football, but my parents wouldn’t let me play until I was in 7th grade. (I did other sports until then.) Since I was a big kid for my age and they arranged teams based on weight, I was grouped with 15-year-olds when I was 10 or 11. By 8th grade, I was on the JV high school team and as a freshman I played varsity.

Q: You make no bones about being Jewish. What denomination are you?

A: We are Reform and members of Temple Beth Am in Buffalo. My mother was non-Jewish before she met and married my father at Indiana. After they were married, she converted. Neither my parents nor I have been to Israel but my sister is currently looking into going on a Birthright Israel trip.

My sister and I attended Hebrew and Sunday school two days a week. I learned Hebrew but I don’t remember much. I wasn’t involved in youth groups or any other Jewish groups, but we did belong as a family to the Jewish Community Center where I worked out from time to time.

Q: Have you ever experienced a conflict about playing a football game on a Jewish holiday?

A: I haven’t had any conflicts, per se, like having to decide whether to play on Yom Kippur. However, I remember we had a game one year the evening after Yom Kipppur ended. I couldn’t fast Yom Kippur day because we had a game that night.

Q: Were you the only Jewish player on the Penn State team?

A: No. There were two other Jewish football players and they are among my good friends today.

From Torah to ... tackles?
Q: What can the Jewish community of St. Louis do for you once you settle in?

A: Just to be supportive of what I do and do what you’re doing with this interview…reaching out to me and making me aware of the different programs and options in the city.

Q: How would you like to connect to the Jewish community?

A: I want to learn what the Jewish community has to offer…your website will help. I’m open to trying new things. Will I join a congregation? I don’t know at this point. I have to see if I have time and where I’ll be living.

Q: I know this is personal, but we have to ask because almost every Jewish mother will wonder: Do you have a significant other?

A: No. I’m single.

Q: Do you have any friends or family in St. Louis?

A: No and I’ve never been to this part of the country before. I know about the Arch and I read about the city Museum in an airline magazine. It will be nice to be close to my sister who’ll be at the University of Illinois.

Q: Do you have any role models who are Jewish…or non-Jewish?

A: My Jewish role models are my parents. They’ve always been there to support, teach me and guide me in everything I’ve ever done. They’ve always made time to help me in any way they could. I look up to my sister too. She is a great athlete and student. She taught me how to manage my time efficiently.

My non-Jewish role model is Jerry Rice, when he played for San Francisco. He had a tremendous work ethic.

Q: What have been the highlights in your football career?

A: The 2005 and 2008 seasons at Penn State when we won the Big Ten Championship. When I got to Penn State, the football record was 2 wins and 8 losses in 2004. They weren’t doing well. We got lots of media attention and people were screaming should Coach Joe Paterno retire? Be fired? We applied ourselves to bring Penn State back to glory and by my senior year I was playing in the Rose Bowl.

Q: If you didn’t play football, what would you like to do?

A: I’m interested in learning more about diverse groups of people…I suppose I’m intrigued by sociology. I came close to majoring in it. I’d like to study and learn more about demographics and society and how people interact. I’m also interested in finance. After all that is what I was studying in grad school.

Q: What do you consider your most marked characteristic?

A: I’m very focused on the goals I want to achieve. I’ve always been able to balance lots of different things – school, athletics, friends and to create an even balance among all three. I bring 100% of myself to anything I try.

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