ESPN’s Mike Greenberg kicks off Alliance Annual Campaign


Susan Leach DeBlasio and Mike Greenberg at the Jewish Alliance Annual Campaign Launch. /Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode IslandPROVIDENCE – Event Chairs Neil and Randi-Beth Beranbaum, along with Alan and Marianne Litwin, hosted the evening event of the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island’s 2014 Annual Campaign Launch at the Biltmore Hotel on September 17. Before sports talk show host Mike Greenberg, the featured speaker, appeared, the audience of more than 300 had time to meet and greet both old and new friends

Sharon Gaines, chair of the Alliance board, welcomed the more than 300 guests and invited all to participate in the wealth of programs, events and services that the Alliance offers throughout the year.  She said, “The Alliance is a place where families with young children can send their kids to preschool, enjoy summer camp programs and learn to swim.”

Susan Leach DeBlasio, the 2014 Annual Campaign Chair, shared a few stories to highlight how the Jewish Alliance strengthens Jewish life in Rhode Island, engages families with young children, makes Jewish life more affordable and provides access to meaningful Jewish life experiences.  She announced that, last year, the Alliance Annual Campaign provided 200 children with scholarships and grants, enabling them to make lasting memories at Jewish camps.  Susan also explained how the Alliance helps parents find meaningful connections to Jewish life. “Every year, we deliver more than 100 Shalom Baby Baskets to welcome newborns into our Jewish community, helping children “explore their Jewish identity by putting a new book from our PJ Library into their hands every month. And we’re helping non-Jewish moms in our community raise Jewish children through our Mother’s Circle program.”

Susan also spoke about her recent trip to Belarus and Israel on a Jewish Federations of North America mission of campaign lay and professional leaders.  She shared her personal stories about people she met and how the Alliance and its overseas partners are helping promote and sustain Jewish identity and life around the world.

She complimented the givers, saying that, with their donations, they are “saving a generation of young Jewish adults – one by one – who would otherwise assimilate into obscurity.”

Jeffrey Savit, president and CEO of the Jewish Alliance, spoke about uniting the community to help the vulnerable and to bring luster back to the Jewish Community Center. He introduced Mike Greenberg, co-host of ESPN’s “Mike & Mike in the Morning” and the author of his third book, “All You Could Ask For,” copies of which were found in every attendee’s gift bag.

Despite Mike’s uncle’s claim that his show is “nothing but drivel,” it’s easy to see why “Mike & Mike” is the highest-rated prime time radio sports talk program, with more than three million listeners. As soon as Mike Greenberg, “Greeny,” as most address him, took hold of the microphone, his powerful voice grabbed everyone’s attention and didn’t let it go until he walked out of the room.

Immediately putting the donors at ease, Greenberg said that he wouldn’t focus on cancer in his talk, even though the illness inspired the book, the point of which is to extol friendship’s power to lift people.  Watching his wife and two of her girlfriends come together for their friend, Heidi Armitage, who was suffering from breast cancer, he was inspired and moved not only to write about it, but also to start a charitable foundation called Heidi’s Angels.

Starting with his first joke of the evening, “It’s lovely to spend a second consecutive day in a room full of Jews” (a tongue-in-cheek reference to a meeting he had had the previous day with professional sports team owners), the entertainer was on a roll. Men were nodding knowingly and women were wiping away tears of laughter as he described the experience of writing his first book, “Why My Wife Thinks I’m an Idiot,” or, as he calls it, “Every Jewish Man’s Autobiography.”

Greenberg thinks that most of the difficulties in a marriage occur because men and women aren’t operating on the same wavelength. His statement to his wife sums up this theory perfectly: “Your need to discuss our problems is interfering with my need to pretend they don’t exist.” Instead of dwelling on such issues, he prefers to relax by watching sports, his escape mechanism. Greenberg thinks it’s very healthy: “There’s nothing in the world better than investing everything into something that means absolutely nothing.” Proving the point, he says that some of the best memories of his childhood are of going to ball games with his dad.

He also shared the stories of his career path. Covering sports, he followed Michael Jordan all over the country, an assignment that jumpstarted his career and led to a TV job. He tells about taunting the great athlete during a pickup basketball game. Jordan’s retaliation taught him an important lesson – intense competitiveness and self-assurance are qualities that lead to success. Greenberg instructs his children that there is a fine line between confidence and arrogance and, when in doubt, they should jump over it. Practicing what he preaches, he doesn’t appear to suffer from any insecurity, despite his admission that he was terrified to speak in front of everyone that evening.

He has always been upfront and unapologetic. Upon first meeting his co-host, former professional football player Mike Golic, Greeny said, “I don’t want to suggest that you’re a fat guy, but if we stood next to each other, we’d be the number ten.” He rationalized the risk of being beaten up by thinking, “I come from a long line of highly litigious people.”

Golic was the star of most of Greenberg’s tales. There’s one about his rule that he, Greenberg, must approve any breaking news, a policy he instituted after Golic claimed that Colin Powell’s resignation must be announced immediately. Of course, the headline from which Golic learned the news didn’t identify Colin Powell as the U.S. Secretary of State (it was the British footballer by the same name), so the mistake is understandable. Greenberg,  however, didn’t think so and made sure to remember the error. Later on, he joked with Golic, “The Pope has resigned. My people gave him an offer.”

Then there’s another one about Golic’s belief that the Georgian (not Gregorian) calendar was one of the most significant accomplishments of human civilization. Of course, the statement was followed by a joke about Atlanta.

While Greenberg good-naturedly ribs his co-host, he also learns from him and has great respect for Golic’s decision to make his three children a priority, regardless of the fact that the two hosts lose great sums of money by turning down various engagements because of Golic’s kids’ events. More incredibly, Golic refrains from cursing in front of his children, even though he is an extremely profane person, according to his co-host.

After his presentation, Greenberg took some questions from the audience, proving that his humor is not scripted. He came up with witty zingers on the spot. When a man inquired if he ever did any interviews that fell flat, or didn’t go as planned, Mike looked at the questioner intently, finally deadpanning, “I’m not gonna lie to you. This moment comes to mind.”

After more stories about President Bush, Bill Belichick singing with Jon Bon Jovi and Darren Clarke (an athlete Mike respects greatly), Greeny sighed with relief. Fumbling, in faux puzzlement, with his token of the Alliance’s gratitude (a tzedakah box) to, once again, poke good-natured fun at his hosts, he stole the microphone from the closing speaker for one last dig, “I didn’t know there were 400 Jews in Rhode Island. [I] thought we’d be in and out of here in about 15 minutes.”

At the conclusion of the program, there was a distinct and positive vibe in the room that spilled over into the dessert reception immediately following the program.  When asked to reflect on the success of the night’s program, Eddie Bruckner, Vice President of Financial Resource Development, commented, “I am thrilled with the event from start to finish.  It was wonderful to see the community come together in support of the tremendous role that the Jewish Alliance plays in our community.  It was a spectacular event and we achieved our goals to engage new members of our community, raise awareness of the impact of our work and raise funds to help strengthen and sustain the important work we do. Our Campaign is definitely off to a great start!”

Jeffrey Savit enthusiastically stated, “What an auspicious way to launch our 2014 Annual Campaign. I am still kvelling with the turnout and the demonstrated strength of our community.”

Irina Missiuro ( is a freelance writer and editor who lives in Providence.