Greg Joseph knew he wanted to do more.
Deeply connected to his Jewish faith and heritage, Joseph – like countless others – felt compelled to act in response to the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel by terrorist group Hamas.
"It's just made me want to do more and more to try to help – especially people who are more affected by it – whether that's by family members or by proximity," Joseph said. "It's been a call to service for many, many people to do good and try to make the world a better place, which is amazing.
"There are things that go on like this every day in various parts of the world, and we're so blessed and sheltered [here in the U.S.] that I don't think we fully understand nor can really comprehend what people there are going through," he continued. "But I think letting people in that area know they have our support, financial or otherwise, that they're in our thoughts and prayers, hopefully that gives them a little bit more hope and a little bit more positive outlook that it's not going to last forever. That it's not going unnoticed. In that sense, we're with them.
"I just wanted to try to do my part in making their life a little easier during this devastating time," he added.
Joseph is most passionate about helping innocent civilians whose lives have been drastically affected by the terrorist attacks and ongoing conflict.
He first responded by starting a “Kicks for Israel” PledgeIt campaign, through which he's raised nearly $8,000 for Leket Israel, the leading food rescue organization in Israel. He's also raised an additional $56,000 for the nonprofit through private donations.
Leket Israel is responding to direct requests of the affected. The organization delivers meals to individuals, senior citizens and for families, it provides essential supplies including food, clean water, diapers, formula, medicine and more.
So when the NFL's annual My Cause My Cleats initiative came around this year, Joseph opted for the first time to participate, in order to continue raising awareness and support for innocent lives through Leket's efforts.
"It fills me with pride to be able to hopefully make a positive difference through what we wear, and I think that goes for every single player in the league and every single person within the NFL that gets to participate," Joseph said. "To us, it seems like such a simple act. But to different organizations or individuals, or people in different countries, it can mean the world – because it means they're seen and we are doing what we can, trying to play our part, in trying to better their situation through the amazing platform the NFL gives us."
In addition to players, coaches and staff, Vikings leadership also is voicing its support for Israel. Vikings Owner/Chairman Zygi Wilf, Owner/President Mark Wilf, Owner/Vice Chairman Lenny Wilf, as well as Chief Operating Officer Andrew Miller, will wear custom kicks this weekend.
The shoes are painted in support of innocent civilians, eliminating antisemitism and calling for the release of U.S. citizens taken hostage by Hamas.
The Wilfs released a statement in solidarity with Israel upon the initial terrorist attacks, and on Oct. 23 during the Vikings Monday Night Football game against the 49ers, the team displayed 10 American flags inside U.S. Bank Stadium to represent the 10 American hostages.
Joseph has appreciated support by the Jewish community throughout his NFL career, whether in Cleveland, Tampa or the Twin Cities, and he is honored now to return that support in any way he can.
"Everywhere I've gone, I've been welcomed by the Jewish community. … They've put their arms around me," Joseph said. "I just want to try to reciprocate that and do my part for the Israeli citizens and people suffering over in the Middle East right now. The community aspect is one of the most impactful things."
He noted, however, that Leket Israel does not distinguish between those of Jewish or non-Jewish faith in providing humanitarian relief.
"It's important to state the work we're doing isn't just helping Jewish Israelis," Joseph said. "It's helping Israelis, period. And displaced Middle Easterners, period. No matter the belief system, the religion or political party. That's why I love the work Leket is doing."
Those who give to Leket can view its website for updates on where donors' dollars are going. Joseph felt that was an important aspect in selecting a charity to support.
"It means more to us, and I think it inclines us to give more, when we see and know what we're giving is having an actual effect, versus something where we don't necessarily know the money is going. That was big for me," Joseph said. "I also reached out to many people I know, many of whom know people in Israel, asking about it and asking about different organizations and 501(c)(3)s, and no one had anything but positive things to say about Leket. They passed with flying colors, in a sense."
Joseph specifically thanked Elliott and Marlys Badzin, of Vikings partner Factory Motor Parts, for helping raise funds.
"They've been amazingly generous and instrumental in helping out with what we're trying to do over in Israel to get the innocent families clothing, food and infant essentials to continue living despite what's going on," Joseph said.
"What's really important to me is to make sure families and individuals in need aren't overlooked," he added. "Anytime there's any type of unfortunate event going on like this, innocent people are affected. So I just wanted to try to do my part in making their life a little easier during this time."