With the New Orleans Saints’ spectacular rise this past season, it was inevitable that the team would be spoken of in Biblical terms.
As the victories continued, quarterback Drew Brees was dubbed “Breesus,” which led to a question for Jewish Saints fans — with such a Christological reference being given to Brees, how does one express support?
Why, by joining Jews for Breesus, of course.
Of course, given the identity of the group that the name is a parody of, there were some misgivings, including from the founder of Jews for Breesus himself. Still, that did not prevent over 1000 fans from joining the Facebook page that was established on Dec. 1.
“When I first heard the nickname, Breesus, I thought it was funny,” said New Orleans native Gadi Soued, who started the Facebook group. “But as a Jew, I also thought that it was a little weird for me to be using a nickname that was based on a messiah that I didn’t believe in. But as the name grew on me, I just decided to take it to its logical conclusion. If I believed in Breesus, I would tell everyone that I was a Jew for Breesus. At the end of the day, it’s really all just in good fun, right?”
It isn’t the first time a local Jewish group has played off that name. In 2005, the Krewe du Jieux used “Jieux for Cheesus” as its parade theme.
Soued is a first-generation American. His father was born in Syria and fought in Israel’s War of Independence. According to Soued, he loved the Saints “so much that they used to make him sick to his stomach.”
His mother was born in Egypt and emigrated to Israel in the 1950s. While she “doesn’t know the first thing about football,” being in New Orleans one becomes a Saints fan regardless.
He and his older brother went off to college in the early 1990s and did not return to New Orleans, but “my brother and I love the Saints.”
Now living in Boca Raton, Soued said he enjoys the looks people give him when he says he is from New Orleans. There, “everyone is a Jew from Long Island, or New Jersey, or New England, or somewhere up North.”
Though he had not lived in New Orleans for years, when Katrina hit in 2005 “I just felt so helpless and a little bit guilty.” His childhood home was under water, as was Beth Israel, the congregation where he grew up.
Last year, he came to New Orleans for the United Jewish Communities Young Leadership conference, TikkuNOLAm, where the agenda included a community service project in St. Bernard Parish. But that wasn’t his first trip back after Katrina — in 2006 he was there for the reopening of the Superdome, the Saints-Falcons Monday Night Football extravaganza. He also went to the playoff game against the Eagles.
Being near the Super Bowl, he and his brother were both there to see the Saints win. He noted that his father was watching the game from above — he died in 1988, never having seen his beloved Saints win a single playoff game. “I know he was smiling that day,” Soued said.
At the game, they sat next to a woman in her 40s who was carrying a picture of her father, who had recently died. “She held the picture up… so he could watch it.” He added, “it’s an indication of the passion that Saints fans have for their team, and how the Saints and family are so intertwined.”
Now that the season and the celebrations are over, he is unsure about the future of the Jews for Breesus group. One recent post is about another dilemma for Jewish Saints fans — next season’s home opener? The second night of Rosh Hashanah.