Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Spiritual Chains

Football is a game of inches. How many times do we see the referee holding up his fingers to show the coach your team is an inch short of making the first down? The object in football is to "move the chains" inch by inch, yard by yard advancing the football down the field. The great teams do this well. You can't rely on the big plays to win a championship...championships require consistency at "moving the chains".

One of the many ideas of Chanukah is to move our spiritual chains ascending each and every day throughout the year. During the eight days of Chanukah the head of the household lights the menorah adding a candle from the previous day never being content with the light from the day before. With our spiritual growth we should never take great strides and go for the big play, we should look to move inch by inch, yard by yard, always adding from the day before. Another idea of Chanukah is not only to illuminate our homes with light, we should also look to light up the outside as well. By doing this, each and every one of us participates in warming up both ourselves but the world around us. Chag Chanukah S'meach!

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Former NFLer's Journey to Orthodox Judaism

By: Sammy Hudes

“There’s certainly a connection between football and Orthodox Jewry, believe it or not,” says former NFLer Alan Veingrad. “You get to shul in the morning and you have to put on the uniform − the tallis and the tefillin – and you start to clear your mind in order to have success in your prayers. It’s the same thing with getting to the locker room and putting on your uniform and clearing your mind so you can go out and have a successful practice.”

The year was 1972, when his family relocated from New York to Miami. Inspired by the Miami Dolphins’ undefeated 1972 season that ended in a Super Bowl championship, it was there in Southern Florida where Veingrad, who was just nine, discovered his passion for football. Intrigued by the sport, Veingrad and his brother began attending plenty of games and practices, as their father had purchased Dolphins season tickets.

“At that time of my life, I was growing up your typical American kid. I liked to go fishing, and boating and snorkeling,” says Veingrad of his childhood. Raised in a secular Jewish environment, his religion naturally took a backseat to his interest in sports. “I recall my parents were, not forcing me, but taking me to Hebrew school to learn about the history of the Jewish people and how to speak Hebrew to prepare for Bar Mitzvah.”

As Veingrad grew older, his passion for football began reaching new heights. After playing high school football, Veingrad received a scholarship to play at East Texas State University. He credits his five year college career for the physical and mental preparation he needed to advance his game. An offensive lineman, Veingrad went undrafted in the National Football League, but signed as a walk-on free agent with the Green Bay Packers in 1986. He made the team that same year, and started every game as a rookie.

After five years with the Packers, Veingrad spent two seasons with the Dallas Cowboys. With Dallas, he was able to win the Super Bowl following the 1992 season. “It was definitely one of my proudest moments,” says Veingrad of one of the greatest professional sports achievements that there is. “It takes a buy in from everybody. You don’t have any naysayers on the squad. You have everybody that’s pulling in the same direction. Everybody expects everybody to give it their all and if there’s somebody that’s not, the players will approach him and let him know that that’s not acceptable to us, for the benefit of this team.”

Following the championship season, Veingrad retired from the NFL. He was satisfied with his career, and his life for that matter. “During my five years in college and my seven years in the NFL, if you had asked me what religion I am, I’d say I’m Jewish. If you had asked me what day it is, I’d say it’s Wednesday. Many times I didn’t know what Jewish holiday it was. I didn’t really care what Jewish holiday it was. I was playing football.”

Soon after retirement, Veingrad was a happily married man with a newborn child. One day, his family was invited over for a Friday night Shabbat dinner at his cousin Jonathan’s. “His family is Orthodox, which I knew. They lived here in South Florida so I went to the Friday night meal, and I didn’t know anything [about Orthodox Judaism] and I didn’t really care. It was after the meal that he asked ‘would you go to a

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

When Is It Time to Change?

By Alan Veingrad

When you are constantly feeling that your current path no longer makes sense, it is time to change.

I know today that I don’t look much like I used to – an offensive lineman for the Green Bay Packers and later the Dallas Cowboys. Today, I sport a long flowing beard, yarmulke and tzitzis. But I did not roll out of the NFL and into the synagogue – that change came later. Just as dramatic for me was the change I experienced when I retired from the game.

As a child, I wondered about what a pro football player would look like up close. Growing up in Miami, I had landed a coveted job with the Miami Dolphins: operating the net that is raised behind the goalposts during an attempted field goal or extra point. I wore an orange staff shirt which allowed me to get into the locker room after the game and to see what these guys were made of.

This experience really sparked my early appreciation for the value of awareness. I discovered how much I could learn by getting close to people and just paying attention to everything that was going on. I learned to listen to what other said about me and what they thought I could do. I needed this awareness to manage the two dramatic transitions in my life: the transition from pro football to non-player and the transition from a more casual Jew to a more focused one.

In the second case, my awareness was piqued when I was once invited to a rabbi’s home for a meal. While I was there, a neighbor, also a rabbi, stopped by to borrow a barbecue grill. My host jumped to his feet and offered to take the grill over to his neighbor’s house and I followed. I watched his neighbor’s son and his friends enjoying a simple relay race game in the street and I was struck by how much they were enjoying the few hot dogs from the grill that highlighted the boy’s birthday party. It caused me to think about all the material “stuff” I had accumulated in my life and how I really desired to be more like these families: relaxed, focused and confident, living simply with everyday joy. I had fallen into the “where are you going to spend the summer?” syndrome and wanted to make a profound change – to return to my spiritual roots. One thing I knew is that it would take focus.

I once had a fellow player teach me all about how to focus. He asked what I focused on when I was in my stance as an offensive lineman and taught me that it must be on one thing: THE TARGET. So I started to stare at a single point on my opponent’s chest. This proved to be exactly what I needed in pursuing my Torah studies, from which I learned even more about focusing my mind and actions.

In addition to focus, you need to keep moving. I once played against Lawrence Taylor of the New York Giants, a fearsome player that I dreaded facing. It turned out to be a great game for me and it was a big thrill the next day when I ended up getting a game ball for my efforts. But then the coach asked me, “OK, but what are you going to do TODAY?” That is the question we all have to ask ourselves each day if we are to continue to re-stoke our desire to be great at what we do.

You can do this! You can create changes large and small in your life if you ramp up your awareness, focus your desire and follow your passion, if you use your discipline and your wisdom and your transferable talents, if you create around you a team that will help pull you out of the old ways and into the new. You may not end up looking like you used to and that’s okay. You will be going on the journey of a lifetime.

Friday, September 3, 2010

It’s a brand new season!

By Alan Veingrad

It’s a brand new season! Every Jew is in the game – perhaps playing a different position,role or level of participation than last year but nonetheless, we Jews are all on the same team. Some of us are in the front office, some are still learning the game as second- or third-string rookies and some are Pro-Bowl veterans. But all of us are unique and indispensible with our own special talents and contribution levels. We all have the opportunity to learn the playbook, study and prepare for the game. As a football player in the NFL, I would often change my game plan throughout the season based on the upcoming opponent, as each player I was up against presented a new style of play and unique challenges. And during the week, throughout the game and after the games I would get coached. My coach and I would study the successes and the failures together: Did I make the right block? Was I in the right place at the right time? Did I follow the coach’s instructions? Did I prepare myself properly? Or did I just miss a play or a block, jump off-sides or get called for
holding and cost my team an opportunity to win the game? Sometimes in life, we blow the chance to do the right thing. We say something we shouldn’t, we raise our voice or we’re just not on our toes ready for the opportunity to do it right. We have
the easy lay-up to help someone out, the chance to score on a meaningful mitzvah or free time to learn our offense better. But we drop the ball, or we miss the block and leave someone vulnerable, or waste time that could have made all the difference. We let our teammates down,the coach down and ourselves down. Life is not a game but I have learned a lot from my years in the NFL about what it takes to succeed –
especially at being a great Jew. It’s funny – the NFL season always starts in the fall, right around Rosh Hashana time. These days, I still feel the fresh opportunity in the air at this time of year, to put the past behind me and embrace a brand new
start. But now, it’s not about making the coach proud by being the best player I can, it’s about making God proud, and my family and community proud, by being the best Jew that I can. One key to success that I took with me from my playing days is always to be “coachable.” That means being open and eager to learn new things and make adjustments, to trust someone who knows more than I do and believe in my ability
to meet new challenges. When you relish the chance to make the coach proud, you forget about justifying what you’ve already done – you’re accepting the fresh challenge to build on the past and to look ahead. In every sport and every endeavor there are fumbles, errors, misses and failures. There comes a time when we have to face up to our own misplays, to say to the coach, “I blew a big chance to make an impact. I forgot what you told me and it hurt the team. I accept responsibility and I am sorry; will you forgive me, coach? This season, I’m ready to start over and be every bit the player you know I can be.” The beauty of our Jewish heritage is that we have the winning playbook. The Torah is all about guiding us to grow and always to be our very best at what really matters. Each and every challenge is direct from our Coach to take the next step and to do it right – to reach higher and higher,
never resting on past success or hiding from past mistakes.

The holiday of Rosh Hashanah gets us back in the game – renewed, refreshed and ready to start another season. It’s the time to make our adjustments and to let the Coach know that we’re there for him with everything we’ve got, that we’re going to be coachable this season and better than ever. We’re going to learn the playbook like never before. And we’re going to make Him proud.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Veingrad named Marketing Sales Director for CJA & Associates


For more information:

Angel King
CJA & Associates

Veingrad named Marketing Sales Director for CJA & Associates

NAPLES, July 21, 2010 – Ray Ankner, founder of CJA & Associates, a national employee benefits company, has announced that Alan Veingrad will assume the position of Marketing Sales Director of CJA. “Alan brings over 20 years of strategic business experience planning for business owners. This experience adds a new aspect to our marketing efforts,” Ankner said. “Alan has successfully parlayed his skills from the field of football to the field of business. His success story is one that business owners can relate to and respect.”

“At CJA, we have been successful designing and marketing insurance products and employee benefit plans for the small business and the estate planning markets. Alan’s ability to convey these programs to business owners will be a major asset in helping us grow.”

Alan is a former offensive lineman for the Super Bowl XXVII World Champion Dallas Cowboys. He was inducted into his alma mater Texas A&M, Commerce Athletic Hall of Fame class of 2006 and into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, Class of 2010. Since his retirement from the NFL, Veingrad has used his championship experience to score big in his business career. He has held executive level positions in the commercial real estate/mortgage and financial services industries. Veingrad speaks to audiences around the world, relating his story on the discipline of being a professional athlete and leader of high-performance sales teams to the process of becoming a successful business executive.

About CJA & Associates: Founded more than 35 years ago, CJA & Associates has been a leader in developing innovative benefit and estate planning programs focused on small business owners. CJA is one of the most respected third party administration companies in the nation. Companies affiliated with CJA include First Actuarial Corporation, a third party administration company; PlanGen, a technology company focused on the employee benefits market, RMC Reinsurance company and RMC Property and Casualty Company. For more information, please visit wwwcjamarketing.com or 239.298.8210.

About Alan Veingrad: Alan speaks to corporate and business audiences around the world bringing his inspirational messages of positivism, personal excellence, leadership, team play, and spiritual connection. His presentation style and post-retirement experience in business development have made him a much sought after speaker by Fortune 500 companies, professional services firms, and owner-managed businesses whose management seeks to lead their organizations by exemplifying a culture of personal and professional achievement blended with a higher purpose. For more information, please visit www.alanveingrad.com
For Media Inquiries and bookings, please contact Angel King
(aking@cjamarketing.com) at 239.298.8210.