By Tori Bergel
On Terps football gamedays, celebrations are felt throughout campus: Greek life tailgates on the lawn, students strolling around in Maryland apparel and families coming to visit, barbecuing and drinking in groups. But Saturday, Nov. 2, brought with it an elusive event occurring only once or twice a year: the Kegma tailgate.
Outside the “American Flag Building,” a heavily Jewish apartment building on Knox Road known as AFB, students roamed in a section of the parking lot set off by a line of caution tape.
Though in most ways on par with typical tailgates, one distinction was obvious: the attire. Outfits ranged from spirited red and black ensembles to the button-downs and dresses of students coming straight from Shabbat services. Kippahs were on many heads, and the majority of those attending did so without their cell phones. This tailgate was created for Jews.
Kegma, a play on Hillel’s Orthodox student group, Kedma, was created a few years ago by Elisha Galler ‘19 as a way to bring Jewish students together, said Will Barry, a senior government and politics and secondary education major.
Barry was one of the many students who took over planning events after Galler graduated.
“A lot of these people who come aren’t in Greek life, so they wanted a way to, like, tailgate with friends since Greek life for them wasn’t an option,” he said.
As part of the festivities, footballs were tossed, couples played beer pong and guests drank from an ice luge, custom-made in the shape of an American flag with “Kegma” spelled out on the bottom. Someone rented a pickup truck and students danced in the bed next to others attempting to kegstand. Pots of cholent were set up near the drink table.
“I think it’s nice for the community. It gives them a sense of, like, togetherness and just like a fun activity for everyone to do,” said Nava Katz, a junior behavioral and community health major. “I go because my friends plan it and a lot of my friends go.”
In addition to Kegma’s tailgate, other football festivities happen throughout campus on gameday. The most notable one is the Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Association’s tailgate, which takes place on the president’s lawn before each home game. Only those with a chapter wristband are allowed in. Many Jewish students are also members of Greek life or have gone to the tailgates with friends.
“I go to both of those tailgates because I have friends in both of those communities of people,” said Jenna Goldschmidt, a senior computer science major. “But I also, I really really enjoy [the Kegma] one, because I think I have more friends who are Jewish than who aren’t.”
Not everybody is a fan of the tailgate. There are many students who choose not to go, including Gil Melkin, a senior finance major who used to participate in it, but stopped mid-junior year.
“I think I gained more of an appreciation for what Shabbat is and what it means to me, and the Kegma tailgates didn’t quite fit in to how I now envision my Shabbat,” he said.
He added that as the tailgates have continued, the nature of the event as a social gathering for drinking, along with music and activities like keg stands, may turn certain people off to the event given that they are on Shabbat, which is typically a spiritual day.
“I guess, in recent years, music, keg stands, none of which I’m, like, particularly opposed to in the right setting, but I just find it to be the wrong setting for me, personally,” said Melkin.
Junior information science major Jared Caplan said he chooses not to attend because he isn’t a “huge drinker” and prefers to spend time with friends in smaller groups after the tailgate ends.
Kegma tailgates happen no more than twice each fall semester and often vary in size, said junior family science major Andrew Korman, another person who took over after Galler.
“This week, ‘cause it was homecoming, was a little bigger,” he said. “It was probably like 150 to 200 people … the last one we had I know was a little less than that.”
The last Kegma tailgate before the Nov. 2 one—the weekend of the Terps vs Indiana game—was shut down by police over a noise complaint. The city of College Park recently passed an ordinance prohibiting “unruly social gatherings” of eight or more people where underage drinking or a disturbance of the peace takes place.
Despite the setback, students were not discouraged from attending this past weekend.
Others from outside the Jewish community often join the party when they see the commotion by AFB. Barry said there’s a “kind of stigma” surrounding Jews and what they do or don’t do because of religion, so creating these more mainstream events for Kegma is a fun way of clearing the air.
“For Jews and non-Jews it’s kind of like a spectacle because you do have people there that, like, are very clearly observant Jews, have Kippot or tzitzit or like whatever, like very visible signs of being Jewish,” said Barry. “But then there’s also like people doing shots and keg stands and like, things like that.”
Jacob Nelson, a junior finance and information systems major who lives in AFB and frequents the Kegma tailgates, summed up the appeal of the tailgate: “The Kegma tailgate is unique because it’s the only tailgate on campus put on by the students for the students. Meaning, there’s no IFC, there’s no school running it, it’s just a group of close friends who decided, you know what, we want to have a good time as much as anyone else…People who walk by, stop by, and I just love it.”