Rose Bowl Rabbinic Rivalry

When Oregon and Ohio State take the field tomorrow in Pasadena at the Rose Bowl, there will be more going on than meets the eye.

Enter Rabbi Drew Kaplan, newly appointed head of Jewish Student Services and SoCal Campus Rabbi at Long Beach State, and across Orange County. Rabbi Drew is loves Torah, his family, and Buckeye Football. A native of Ohio Drew will be praying for a Bucks victory at the Rose Bowl.

Then there is me, past head of Jewish Student Services and a SoCal Campus Rabbi, and now Director at JConnect. I love Torah, my family, and Duck Football. I am a native of Michigan, and will be praying for a Ducks victory in Pasedena.

Now both of us being Shabbat observant Jews, our passion for our respective college football teams could not help but be tempered by the reality that we cannot watch any of these games live. The only times I seem to ever see the Ducks play football is in a Bowl Game. And this is a big deal — Ohio State (10-2) hasn’t played in the Rose Bowl since 1997, while Oregon (10-2) hasn’t made it since 1995.

If measured in Jewish students, Ohio State has a clear edge. With 3,200 Jewish students approximately, it is the 16th largest concentration of Jewish students at a public university in the country. Oregon, has perhaps 1,000 Jewish students, and doesn’t even rank in the top 30.

The Ducks have a famous Jewish alum who plays now for Dallas, Igor Olshansky. Ohio State has John Frank, who also was part of the Israeli Bobsled team!

We were going to set out and go together to the game. The moment that this matchup was announced, we realized the monumental nature of this contest, and the ramifications for Jewish life in California and beyond.

I had dreams of a kosher tailgate party, where Jews from both sides of this contest, could break bread together, and enjoy harmony before the war of roses.

I imagined the scene of praying mincha at half-time, one part of the minyan in Duck colors, the other in Buckeye colors. Jews, divided by geography, and allegiances, could lay down their vocal weapons and for a moment give thanks to the almighty. I imagined a harmonious moment that could usher in the Messianic age.

But then we realized that this game was being played on Erev Shabbat. I frantically contacted Drew and we began thinking of plans. We could try to get rooms (unlikely) staying at a hotel near the stadium, in case the game was still going on when Shababt arrived. We contemplated making a Shabbat Tent in the Rose Bowl parking lot, but management doesn’t allow overnights.

This once-in-a-life-time contest would have to be watched from the comfort and affordability of home. When the dust settles on the field, we will get back to planning Jewlicious Festival.

Go Ducks, Go Buckeys, Go Shabbos!
A side note — both teams are staying in five-star hotels down the street from our offices on Avenue of the Stars. They arrived on Monday from the airport with police escorts in four large tour buses.