When he’s not racking up accolades on the gridiron, you can catch Kansas City Chiefs’ star lineman Mitchell Schwartz lighting the giant menorah with Chabad or visiting a local Jewish day school.

Schwartz, whose Hebrew name is Mendel, has become a perennial presence at Chanukah celebrations with Chabad of Leawood, just outside of Kansas City, where he lights the menorah, and stays to schmooze and enjoy sufganiyot, jelly doughnuts eaten during the holiday along with other oil-based treats.

“He’s very comfortable in his Judaism,” said Rabbi Mendy Wineberg, who co-directs Chabad of Leawood with his wife, Devory. “The first year he came to our menorah-lighting, I offered him a sheet with the brachot. He replied, ‘I don’t need that,’ and proceeded to say them flawlessly.”


He was also a typically good sport, staying to chat and pose for photos with fans afterwards.

“I gave him a mezuzah, and he let me know that he planned to put it up. “He has a high degree of familiarity and pride in doing mitzvot,” Wineberg told Chabad.org.

Schwartz has visited the Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy, a local Jewish day school that successive generations of Winebergs have been attending for 47 years. He spoke to the students about Jewish pride and what it means to him to be a Jewish football player.

“It brings a lot of pride, especially to the children, to see that you can be at the top of your game and be proud of your Judaism, and comfortable in your Judaism,” said Wineberg, who hopes to inspire the player to increase his participation and observance even more.

And if the Chiefs are victorious against the 49ers, Wineberg has pledged to celebrate in a very relevant way. “If they win, our Purim theme will be ‘Purim at the Super Bowl,’ ” he said. “And we would be honored if Mitchell would join us.”