The Jew Effect

By Carolyn Braff - September 20, 2007


For Jewish people everywhere, this Saturday marks the holiest day of the year, and it has nothing to do with LSU facing off against South Carolina. Saturday is Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, and while many players will be eating heartily in preparation for their games, a select few will be spending the day fasting in observance of the holiday. Yom Kippur lasts from sundown on Friday, Sept. 21 until Sundown on Saturday, Sept. 22, which complicates the situation for any religiously observant player who wants to take the field for his team. With so few religious Jews playing at the Top 25 level, those stories are few and far between, which makes the few out there all the more interesting.

Night Game Spells Relief
Wisconsin redshirt freshman Gabe Carimi is thrilled that the No. 9 Badgers open their conference season with a night game. Saturday's kickoff is at 7:13 p.m., just after sunset (estimated for 6:55 p.m. on Saturday in Madison, Wis.). With kickoff a solid 20 minutes after Carimi's 24-hour fasting obligation ends, the 6-foot-8, 292-pound offensive lineman is free to suit up for the game, where he will start for the fourth consecutive time at left tackle.

Carimi spoke with head coach Bret Bielema about the religious conflict as early as last spring, when the schedule listed the Badgers' matchup with Iowa for the date of Yom Kippur, but did not indicate a time. At the time, Bielema believed that the game would have an evening kickoff, so Carimi could relax until the full schedule was released.

The fast for Carimi begins at 4:00 on Friday afternoon before he attends synagogue that evening. He does plan to spend the night at the team hotel, but will return to synagogue Saturday morning before spending the rest of the day sitting in his room observing the holiday, rather than watching other games on television with his teammates.

In order to get him back to game shape quickly, Carimi will receive IV fluids before the game. He'll certainly need his strength, as Carimi will line up opposite Iowa senior defensive end Kenny Iwebema, who had two sacks last time he took the field against Wisconsin and has 13 in his career.

Trojan In
USC starting safety Taylor Mays, who is Jewish, will play on Saturday when the No. 1 Trojans take on Washington State. Kickoff is at 5:00 p.m., but Mays will suit up with the team, although he has said he respectfully acknowledges the feelings of others who do not participate in work or activity as part of their observance of the day.

The Yom Kippur Mini-War
Harvard season ticket holders and alumni were less than pleased when they received the original version of the 2007 schedule, which listed Harvard's matchup with Ivy League rival Brown for Friday, Sept. 21 at 7:30 p.m., smack dab in the middle of the religious observance of Yom Kippur. Harvard Athletic Director Robert L. Scalise said officials from Harvard and Brown knew that Sept. 21 was the eve of Yom Kippur when they scheduled the game in the spring, but Harvard wanted a Friday night game to draw freshmen to the stadium, which has recently been equipped with lights.

Harvard has no official policy on scheduling games on holidays, and Scalise pointed out that the baseball team has played on Easter Sunday. However, once fans began complaining that the Friday night kickoff forced them to choose between synagogue and football, Scalise made a move to correct the error.

Holding the game on Friday night would keep any religious Jews from attending, but a Saturday night kickoff would not, as the holiday ends at sunset on Sept. 22. The game was therefore rescheduled for Saturday, Sept. 21 at 7:30 p.m., well after the 6:42 p.m. sunset in Cambridge, Mass.

Harvard does have Jewish athletes on the team, but none have been public about their decision to observe the holiday.

Elsewhere In The Nation
Over in the Big Ten, Ohio State's pressbox PA technician will be taking the day off.

Posted by Carolyn Braff at 01:16 PM on September 20, 2007
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your headline on this story sucks.

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