On Jan. 31, Pennsylvania’s Jewish governor, Josh Shapiro, took to Twitter to congratulate the Philadelphia Eagles on becoming NFC champions. In a short video, Shapiro, from the governor’s residence in Harrisburg, said, “Birds nation … this is huge and I’ve got a little something for you to celebrate the win and get ready for the Super Bowl.”
The governor pulled out a device from under his desk and pushed on it. Then the video cut to the west side of the Pennsylvania State Capitol building underneath the dome as it illuminated in green. An E-A-G-L-E-S chant played in the background.
Shapiro, who grew up in Montgomery County and raised his family there, gets it. The Eagles are going to Super Bowl LVII at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, on Feb. 12. If they beat the Kansas City Chiefs, they will win their second championship in six seasons. And that journey to the big game, even before the matchup kicks off, is something for Philadelphia and Jewish Philadelphia to celebrate.
“Go Birds!” said the governor in the email from his office about the pro-Eagles gesture.
It’s a common greeting and farewell in the Philadelphia area these days. And Jewish locals are taking part as much as anyone else.
Brian Beere, 62, a Center City resident and Congregation Rodeph Shalom member, is going to Glendale with his two sons, Evan, 27, and Geoff, 24, for the game. The Beeres have season tickets to the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. They go to six home contests a year. But they did not attend Super Bowl LII in 2018 in Minneapolis, the Eagles’ first Super Bowl victory.
After the Birds beat the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship Game that year, Brian Beere rushed to make plans and find tickets. But he could not get everything together in time. So this season, as quarterback Jalen Hurts and company were going undefeated in September, Beere booked a hotel in the Glendale area. Then in October, with the team still unbeaten, he secured his airfare, too. The Beeres don’t even have tickets to the game yet. But they are going to pay up to $8,000 a ticket. It’s a bucket list item for the boys who have been watching sports together since the sons were young.
Brian Beere is a third-generation Philadelphian. And even though Evan Beere and Geoff Beere live in New York City and Miami, respectively, they are still Eagles fans.
“It means everything to go with family members you care about,” Evan Beere said. “I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
The Beeres are friends with the Hassmans, another area Jewish family going to the big game. But unlike the Beeres, David Hassman, 58, and his son Corey Hassman, 27, traveled to Minneapolis in 2018, too. When New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s last pass to the end zone hit the ground incomplete, securing the Eagles’ 41-33 victory, the father and son hugged. On their way out of U.S. Bank Stadium, they FaceTimed their father and grandfather Joe Hassman, who got the family the season tickets to the Birds that they still use today. Corey Hassman said there were “tears of joy” on his grandfather’s face.
While David Hassman, a city resident and Congregation Beth El in Voorhees, New Jersey, member, called that game “the greatest sporting event I’ve ever attended,” he wants to see it again in 2023. His wife Jodi Hassman and daughter Abby Hassman are coming this time, too, so it’s worth spending the $2,000 additional dollars per ticket that this trip will cost.
“It’s something that brings us together,” said Corey Hassman, an Old City resident.
Of course, you do not have to go to the game to enjoy the experience. Local synagogues and day schools are hosting spirit days for students to wear Eagles jerseys and shirts. Leslie Kornsgold, the associate principal at the Abrams Hebrew Academy in Yardley, said those days, which the school also had during the Phillies’ World Series run in the fall, connect younger and older students around their fandoms.
The Perelman Jewish Day School in Montgomery County is teaching students how to sing “Fly Eagles Fly!” in Hebrew, according to Head of School Mitch Daar. For an institution that starts Hebrew immersion classes in preschool, it’s a way to combine education with local spirit.
“It’s part of the community atmosphere we strive for here at school,” Daar said.
Community. That’s the key word here, according to local rabbis. But not just community in this moment. Community l’dor v’dor.
“It’s the importance of sharing like stories and sharing a love of something,” said Rabbi Glenn Ettman of Congregation Or Ami in Lafayette Hill. ■