Steelers President Art Rooney II and his wife Greta were honored on Tuesday night by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) at the Tree of Life Award Dinner.
The Tree of Life Award, a humanitarian award, is given annually to recognize outstanding community involvement, professional leadership, dedication to the cause of American-Israeli friendship, and devotion to the peace and security of human life.
"The Tree of Life is always an exciting event for our community," said Steven Schwartz, President of the Western Pennsylvania Chapter of JNF. "We are proud to honor Greta and Art Rooney for the tremendous amount that they have done for Jewish National Fund and so many different organizations in and around Pittsburgh. Their impact is immeasurable and they are truly dynamic community leaders in our region."
The Rooney family and the Steelers organization have supported the JNF for at least 20 years. The JNF previously honored late Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney at their annual dinner, and it has come full circle now that his son is being honored.
"It's certainly an honor to receive an honor he once received," said Art Rooney II. "The State of Israel has been a great ally of our country for a long time. We are happy to help support an organization that is doing a lot of great things in Israel. It's another organization that has long roots in Pittsburgh, and members of the Jewish community have been great supporters of ours for a long time. It's great for us to be a part of an organization that is doing so many things in Israel that are necessary."
Several former Steelers, including Franco Harris, Craig Bingham and Will Allen were on hand to support and honor the Rooneys, and are happy to see the commitment to the community has continued through generations of the Rooney family.
"It really means a lot, but I have to admit it's not surprising," said Harris. "You saw 'The Chief' (Art Rooney Sr.), and Dan, and now you see Art giving back, believe me, the apple hasn't fallen far from the tree. I wouldn't expect anything less. It's one of the best organizations in sports and I am so happy it continues to be that way."
The involvement of the Rooneys, as well as countless others, has helped JNF in their efforts to green the desert by planting millions of trees, build inclusive parks, create new communities and cities for generations of Israelis to call home and bolster Israel's water supply.
The organization is also working to educate both young and old about the importance of Israel and have sent four high school students to Israel to study for a semester.
The Jewish National Fund selected the Rooneys as their honorees because of their commitment to aid in their efforts, as well as other organizations and charitable funds they support. Among the many charities the Rooneys support are the United Way of Allegheny County, Holy Family Institute, UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program, Cancer Caring Center, Pittsburgh Public Theater, Saint Vincent College, Senator John Heinz Western PA History Center and the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh.
"The Tree of Life Award is an opportunity to honor those who are leaders in the community," said Jason Rosen, Midwest Associate Executive Director for JNF. "To have people like Art and Greta honored, this is a family that has been supportive of the organization. They have a long commitment to the organization, a long commitment to Israel. To have the ability to honor what we call a 'Mensch,'' incredibly wonderful, beautiful people is fantastic."
About the Jewish National Fund: It began in 1901 as a dream and vision to reestablish a homeland in Israel for Jewish people everywhere. Jews the world over collected coins in iconic JNF Blue Boxes, purchasing land and planting trees until ultimately, their dream of a Jewish homeland was a reality. JNF gives all generations of Jews a unique voice in building a prosperous future for the land of Israel and its people. JNF embodies both heart and action; our work is varied in scope but singular in benefit. We strive to bring an enhanced quality of life to all of Israel's residents, and translate these advancements to the world beyond. JNF is greening the desert with millions of trees, building thousands of parks, creating new communities and cities for generations of Israelis to call home, bolstering Israel's water supply, helping develop innovative arid-agriculture techniques, and educating both young and old about the founding and importance of Israel and Zionism. JNF is a registered 501(c)(3) organization and United Nations NGO, which continuously earns top ratings from charity overseers. For more information on JNF visit www.jnf.org.