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Tribute to New York Giants Player Joseph “Doc” Alexander, Jewish Football Legend – CBS New York


By Nicole Siegel

As the draft of the NFL approaches and so does Jewish History Month, it is important to remember the achievements of the often forgotten Jewish athletes who helped shape the game and its experience. they highlight the experience of many Jewish athletes.

During the game’s early years, two players often stood out in the professional Jewish NFL Player descriptions – Benny Friedman and Joseph Alexander. Both, along with a few others, became symbols of Jewish achievement, but also faced the stereotypes that shaped the NFL’s early years. A lot has been written about Benny Friedman (Browns, Giants), a player with reshaped passing skills. Joseph Alexander, not much is remembered.

Joseph Alexander (“Doc”), is a Jewish doctor who played for Rochester Jeffersons until 1925, when Tim Mara acquired and founded the New York Giants football team. Alexander Be the first player to sign a contract with the new team and helping to lead them to victories, culminating in the Giant’s first title in 1927. Alexander served both as player and head coach following the departure of Bob Folwell. [1]. Alexander also played in the winning season of 1927, under Earl Poettiger’s leadership [2]. After 1927, due to more active medical activity, Alexander quit coaching and, after that season, from football. He went back to coaching the CCNY team briefly with Benny Friedman [3]. Alexander died in 1975, at the age of 77, a well-known specialist in lung disease who is remembered for his time on and off the pitch.

Alexander is an important figure with an important legacy to bear in mind for a number of reasons. First, in terms of the history of the New York Giants, he was not only the first to sign the team, he was also the first player and coach to lead the team to its first championship (though is before the Super Bowl). He is one of three Giants coaches to win his first two games as head coach [4]. Second, because of his impressive legacy of being able to play and coach professional football as a medical student, and then as an active medical doctor. Third, and perhaps most important, for the heroic image he provided to a Jewish community who took athletes seriously. For most of the ethnic communities in the United States, sport is a way of assimilating into a larger culture [5]. Alexander and other Jewish footballers have become symbols of both the overwhelming racial prejudice that American Jews have faced and will face again after the 1920s, as well as the ability of the American dream and the ability to overcome that prejudice to succeed.

In this day and age, with the rise of anti-Semitism in and out of sports and the lack of Jewish athletes in American sport, it is important to remember the legacy of those whose endeavors Their force has helped shape the game and have inspired a generation in search of heroes.


[1] John Maxymuk,. NFL Head Coach: Biographical Dictionary, 1920-2011. (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co.), 2012 353;

[2] John Maxymuk,. NFL Head Coach: Biographical Dictionary, 1920-2011. (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co.), 2012 353

[3] Friedman is arguably one of the game’s greatest anonymous players. He and Alexander are often associated with each other due to the fact that both were incredible Jewish athletes at a time when there were very few of them. Friedman is considered the NFL’s first stellar player and one of the few New York Giants to make it to the Hall of Fame.

[4] New York Giants Media Guide, pg. 398

[5] Darts, Jon. “British Sport and Jewish Identity.” International evaluation of sports sociology, (September 2020).

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