Nba player

A former NBA player will speak on behalf of the Nathan and Esther Pelz Holocaust Education Resource Center

Former Milwaukee Bucks player and general manager Ernie Grunfeld is believed to be the only athlete in NBA history whose parents survived the Holocaust. A longtime figure in the public eye, the public knows very little about the Jewish aspects of his life.

His son, Dan Grunfeld, himself a former professional basketball player for eight seasons, wrote a book about his father and grandparents called “By the Grace of the Game: The Holocaust, a Basketball Legacy, and an Unprecedented American Dream”. .

Dan will talk about the book and his family during a virtual event at 2 p.m. on Sunday, February 6. The book conference is presented by the Nathan and Esther Pelz Holocaust Education Resource Center, a program of the Jewish Federation of Milwaukee. The conference is sponsored by Michael and Kari Altman.

Dan, 37, is an accomplished writer for publications as diverse as Sports Illustrated and the Jerusalem Post.

It explains the origins of the book, which spanned five years and was published by Triumph Books in November. “Knowing the kind of profound impact that basketball had on our family, as I got older and understood more and more of history, it all kind of coalesced,” Dan said, who played basketball at Nicolet High School and later at Stanford University.

After his professional basketball career in the top leagues in the world, including Israel, he retired, earned his MBA from Stanford, and now works in venture capital in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Dan’s family has deep roots in Wisconsin. His grandfather, Gerald “Jerry” Kahn, was an early owner of the Milwaukee Bucks, founder of the law firm Godfrey & Kahn, a philanthropist and leader of the Jewish Federation of Milwaukee.

Dan’s father, Ernie, was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks in 1977. That’s how Ernie met Dan’s mother, Nancy Kahn, who was originally from Milwaukee. Ernie continued to play professionally until he became an executive with the Knicks in the 1980s. Later, Ernie and Nancy moved with their son Dan to Milwaukee and attended Congregation Shalom. Ernie served as general manager of the Milwaukee Bucks.

Born in rural Romania, Dan’s grandmother, Lily Grunfeld, now 96, was twice saved by Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, first by issuing fake citizenship documents to Jews in Hungary; second, by personally convincing the Nazi guards not to shoot the 80,000 Jews who remained in the Budapest ghetto at the end of the war.

“My grandmother was hiding in a burned building, huddled in a small attic with her fellow inmates,” Dan wrote. She lost both of her parents and five of her nine siblings in the Holocaust. Dan’s grandfather was in a forced labor camp in Hungary.

The book illustrates how basketball transformed Ernie Grunfeld from an immigrant outcast into an Olympic gold medalist for the United States.

“There are difficult things in my family history, but there is much more light. It is a story full of hope and inspiration.

Dan feels compelled to tell his family’s Holocaust story. “If we don’t tell these stories, no one else will. We need to make sure this never happens again and not just the Jews, to anyone else. We must remember those who are lost, honor those who have survived.

Her father is now 66 and lives in the Washington, DC area. He donates to philanthropic causes and, from time to time, has been known to help people in the sports world, Dan said.

“When he read the book, he was very proud of me and very grateful that I told this story, but it was also difficult to relive some painful moments from the past.”

Register for Dan Grunfeld’s talk at

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What: Book discussion: “By the Grace of the Game: The Holocaust, Basketball Legacy and an Unprecedented American Dream.”

When: Sunday, February 6, 2 p.m.

Where: Virtually, with the Nathan and Esther Pelz Holocaust Education Resource Center.


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Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article, in print, included a subtitle that incorrectly stated which Milwaukee Jewish Federation program was responsible for the February 6 event: “By the Grace of the Game : The Holocaust, a basketball legacy, and an unprecedented American dream. The Nathan and Esther Pelz Holocaust Education Resource Center is the organizer of the event. We apologize and regret the error.