Dallas Morning News | Roger Staubach
Roger Staubach: Support for Israel has always been part of my life
By Roger Staubach 3:00 AM on Oct 26, 2019 | Link to original article
You don’t have to be Jewish to understand Israel’s singular status and to support it as a nation and an idea.
In 1904, six months before Zionist visionary Theodor Herzl died, he took the case of Zionism to the Vatican. His meeting with Pope Pius X met with little success, however. While certain Christian denominations have always been supportive of the Jewish people returning to Israel, it took the Catholic Church until 1965 to come to that conclusion.
Over 40 years later, the Vatican published another landmark document, calling upon Catholics to stop trying to convert Jews and to instead work with them to fight anti-Semitism. So my Catholic roots have always helped me see the importance of an Israeli homeland.
An only child of partial German descent, I grew up in Cincinnati, graduating from Catholic high school Purcell Marian in 1960. After a year at New Mexico Military Institute, I enrolled in the U.S. Naval Academy, where I got to start in the famous Army-Navy game where John F. Kennedy performed the coin toss. It was during that time I began buying Israeli bonds. Israeli bonds are one of the few that can be purchased in small increments. It was perfect for me at that time, and my first link to Israel. Watching them grow and mature, alongside the country itself, had me wanting to do more.
My four years of leading men, even if not in combat, was a rapid road to maturity. By the time my active-duty commitment to the Navy had expired, I was well into another uniform. The transition from Navy blues to the Cowboy silver-and-blue brought fame and financial security that allowed me to pursue opportunities close to my heart.
I have devoted much of my career and personal life to improving the lives of others, with a focus on youth and athletics. In the ’70s I was even able to contribute to building tennis courts in Israel thanks to the encouragement of my good friend and philanthropist, Val Diker. As time went on, giving to Israel became a constant goal. I will always remember the supreme honor of receiving the Hope for Humanity award from the Dallas Holocaust Museum in 2010.
A few years back, I visited Jerusalem and Tel Aviv with a group of NFL Hall of Famers. We got to coach and mentor some of the 2,000 players in Israel’s various leagues and see them in action, and I had the privilege of performing the coin toss. American football has seen a huge boost in the 12 years since the launch of the Israel Football League. It seems to have resonated with native-born Israelis who respond to the camaraderie, collisions and the military-like strategy of the game.
One of the biggest inspirations of the trip was the Innovation Expo, a showcase for Israel’s leadership in technology and innovation. As a country, Israel has been the beneficiary of the more than 1 million educated immigrants who have helped foster an entrepreneurial spirit that has fueled amazing innovation. The same mental discipline and strategy that goes into national defense has driven technology innovation.
I look back now and remember the rookie I was at age 27. When I joined the Dallas Cowboys in 1969, I already had a wife and three kids. My Super Bowl wins and MVP status were great, but if I got hurt what was going to happen? I had a family to support. That’s when I started doing real estate in the offseason.
Under the tutelage of Henry S. Miller I learned the ropes, and went out on my own with Robert Holloway, who became my partner in Holloway-Staubach. In 1981 it became the Staubach Company. I retired from football in 1979 after winning my last Super Bowl in 1977. I then put all my energy into building my company in Texas, taking on partners and expanding nationally. I started out with one office in Dallas and by the time I sold the Staubach Company to JLL 11 years ago, we had 60-plus offices throughout the United States.
Football teaches you hard work. The money I made from real estate enabled me to invest in Israeli startups, which mean something to me because I know what it takes to be able to run with an idea. It takes a lot of unspectacular preparation to have spectacular results in both business and football.
As a handbook for life lessons, football made me both disciplined and goal-oriented. Even after my professional career I’ve tried to keep abreast of the tactical changes and updates to the game. I see that there have also been updates to the official Church position on Israel. The last three popes have repeatedly stated that the covenant with the Jewish people is irrevocable.
Israel is a very special place that represents so many faiths. It covers everyone and everything, and you don’t have to be Jewish to understand its singular status and to support it as a nation and an idea.
Roger Staubach is a former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and a real estate investor. The Bnai Zion Foundation will give him the American-Israel Friendship Award next month. He wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.