NESCAC holds 24 games on Yom Kippur
At least 24 New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) sporting events will take place on Oct. 8, even though that Saturday is also Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement.
NESCAC football, men’s and women’s soccer, field hockey and volleyball teams are scheduled to play games that day, leaving Jewish athletes to decide whether they will participate in the events.
In 1965, Major League Baseball player Sandy Koufax made national headlines when he decided not to pitch in the World Series because the game fell on Yom Kippur. Although Koufax was not a particularly religious Jew, he saw it as his responsibility to observe the most important Jewish holiday of the year. As stated in an article on the Pop History Dig, a website devoted to collecting stories “that probe the history and power of popular culture,” Koufax’s decision caused the nation to reconsider the conflict between social pressures and personal beliefs.
According to NESCAC Executive Director Andrea Savage, “NESCAC games are scheduled every weekend in the fall. For cases of Yom Kippur, the institution hosting the event has the option to push the event to Sunday. Some institutions have taken advantage of this and moved events when they fall on Yom Kippur.” However, the games that the College’s teams are scheduled to play in on Saturday are all away-games, so the College had no say in whether the events would be moved to Sunday.
If the event is not moved, “it is important that students understand they need not participate and will not be penalized for missing a game for religious observance,” Savage added.
Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty Lori Kletzer worries that although a coach cannot compel an athlete to play, athletes may be concerned that not playing in a game due to a religious holiday will have an adverse effect on the amount playtime they will get throughout the rest of the season.
Kletzer noted that the College does not move classes due to high holidays “because not attending class [for religious observance] should not and most likely does not, have any coercive implications,” she said.
One Jewish athlete, who wished to remain anonymous, does not plan to sit out of his game on Yom Kippur. “My teammates would never let me live it down,” he said.
Kletzer believes that Yom Kippur falls on a Saturday again during the 2012-2013 academic year. However, the College is scheduled to host the events at home and will therefore have the ability to reschedule the events of that day. “We are interested in holding contests on Sunday next year,” Kletzer said, explaining that most games must take place on weekends.