Two years ago, the University of Maryland Board of Regents accepted an invitation to join the Big Ten Conference athletically and academically, to begin this year. Doing so meant venturing from the Atlantic Coast Conference, a conference the university helped found in 1953.
The Terps played their first Big Ten home game on Sept. 12, which ended in a 2-0 victory for the women’s soccer team over Rutgers University. The football team opened its Big Ten slate at Indiana University on Sept. 27 and returned home to face Ohio State this past weekend.
The game took place on Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement, and, as the holiday approached, Jews across the world were faced with the responsibility to look back on the year that had ended a week prior on the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, and to recognize the choices that had been made—good and bad—and how they shaped us.
The kickoff for Maryland’s first Big Ten football game was set for noon, which caught Jewish Terps fans between a rock and a hard place, as the game was in direct conflict with prayer services and time for reflection. For Jewish students, it was a game-time decision: observe Yom Kippur, or observe the game.
“It’s a different question for different populations. Some will say, ‘It’s a shame the game was on Yom Kippur, I wanted to go.’ Others will try to do both—pray early, go to the game, and pray afterwards,” Rabbi Ari Neuman, an Orthodox rabbi at the University of Maryland Hillel, said.
However, attempting to both observe Yom Kippur—the most sacred Jewish holiday—and go to the game would cause an emotional conflict. The excitement of a marquee matchup with Ohio State does not quite match the somber and reflective tone of Yom Kippur.
“It would be like going straight from a wedding to a funeral,” Neuman said.
However, students were able to do just that. Hillel moved its Reform services to take place from 9-11 a.m. to accommodate the game. The afternoon Reform service was moved to begin at 4 p.m. Lasty, the “Greatest Hits” service, which usually begins at noon, was rescheduled to take place 10 a.m, so that it would be over in time for Terps fans to gear up for the big game.
In 1934, Hank Greenberg, then first basemen for the Minnesota Twins, took a stand amidst a time of extreme anti-Semitism by choosing not to lace up his spikes on Yom Kippur. Perhaps more famously, Sandy Koufax observed Yom Kippur instead of starting Game One of the 1965 World Series.
At a school with an approximately 23 percent Jewish population, many had their “Sandy Koufax moment” and chose not go to the game to demonstrate their ideals.
“I feel morally obligated to fast and observe the holiday,” said sophomore early childhood special education major Alana Rascoe. “It wouldn’t be right if I went to the game.”
Many students approached Rabbi Jessica Lott, a Reform rabbi at Hillel, looking for answers and advice.
“A lot of students have come to me expressing their disappointment and others are struggling,” said Rabbi Lott. “It puts students in the tough spot of having to chose between two strong identities: the Maryland sports fan self and the Jewish self.”
There is no one kind of “Jewish.” Each sect, whether it be Orthodox, Conservative, Reform or Reconstructionist, has its own views and celebrates in a different manner. Because of this, there is no one answer for every student.
“I think each student needs to come to their own conclusion. Ask yourself: when you look at yourself in the mirror Sunday morning, where do you wish you had been the day before? And 5-10 years from now, the same question,” said Rabbi Lott.
By Jake Eisenberg, Journalism, Sophomore, firstname.lastname@example.org