The holiest day of the Jewish year and the holiest day of the Longhorn calendar don’t usually coincide. However, next year, Yom Kippur and the Red River Rivalry both fall on Oct. 8, leaving Jewish Longhorns, about 10.5 percent of the UT student body, in a major predicament.
I bleed burnt orange and have spent a good part of the first month of school eagerly anticipating the annual OU beatdown. But I also consider myself faithful to my religion, and I am most definitely not the only one who believes attending Yom Kippur services surpasses all other engagements. But no fan should ever need to make that choice.
Yom Kippur is the most important day of the Jewish year, even for non-observant Jews. It is the day with the single highest synagogue attendance annually. Known as the Day of Judgement, Yom Kippur includes a 25-hour fast and serves as a time for intensive reflection and repentance. When sitting in God’s court, reading page after page of Hebrew, I should not have to worry about the foreign letters transforming into the X’s and O’s of a playbook or “The Eyes of Texas” replacing the familiar prayer tunes in my head. My focus needs to be on the holiday, not the game.
There is no reason this should even be a concern. As a matter of courtesy and respect, those who plan the football schedule should intentionally avoid scheduling significant games on major religious holidays. Football at UT is a religion in itself, but a uniquely flexible one that should be practiced at an appropriate time.
If Yom Kippur was the day of a typical athletic event, then the conflict wouldn’t be so significant, but the Red River Rivalry is a time-honored Longhorn tradition and one of the foremost rivalry games in American sports. In fact, when The Dallas Morning News interviewed 119 Division 1A football coaches on their opinion of the top rivalry game in college football, the Red River Rivalry came in third.
Unhappy students are already taking action to induce change. Junior Jordan Bagel started a Facebook group titled “Texas OU Game 2011 on Yom Kippur...LET’S CHANGE IT!“ to raise awareness and spur discussion. Two hundred thirty-five members joined the group in its first 24 hours of existence, and with more than 600 members, the group is growing rapidly.
The University accommodates students who miss tests and assignment due dates for religious holidays by allowing extended time to finish assignments and by creating other options to ensure a student isn’t penalized. Although the game isn’t officially a part of University academics, it is a part of University culture and therefore should be given the same standard of respect. The amount of money spent on athletics each year proves that it is a significant department at UT, so it should adhere to University policies and practices.
Over the summer, UT renamed Simkins Residence Hall because of its namesake’s KKK ties. Choosing the inclusive route, even when it meant righting a decades-old wrong, is important to the University. Especially after UT received such poor publicity because of the Simkins fiasco, the University must avoid any appearance of intolerance and prevent this wrong from ever needing repair.
The conflict is an unfortunate coincidence of the game’s traditional setting during the second weekend of the State Fair, but that aspect of the tradition is not well known and is insignificant. It could just as easily take place on the first or third weekend of the fair. Yom Kippur, on the other hand, is a set date on the Hebrew calendar and cannot be changed.
Regardless, changing the date now gives the University a chance to establish a national reputation for tolerance and understanding.
Changing the game will unquestionably necessitate other changes as well, such as modification in scheduling for hotels, news stations and other businesses who are accustomed to having the game at a set time annually. Although these adaptations may be difficult, they are necessary and entirely feasible a year out.
The OU game is also scheduled to occur on Yom Kippur in 2014, so we need to set a precedent that will avoid this issue in the future. People like to joke that we treat UT football as a religion, but Judaism actually is one. Hopefully fans and decision-makers can make the distinction and adjust plans accordingly. Yom Kippur’s date has been set for 5,000 years and cannot be changed. The date of the game can.
Throughout the week, impassioned students have established residence on the West Mall and in front of Jester. There they spent long hours manning booths in support of changing the game, collecting names and EIDs to successfully petition change. The students clearly value both religion and football and are sacrificing time and energy to celebrate both. Hopefully the University can respect that and make a change.
<em>Epstein is a Plan II and business freshman.<em/>