On Saturday, most Texas students will be glued to their televisions watching the Longhorns face the Sooners in the Red River Rivalry. While many will be consumed with the game, a large portion of the Jewish Longhorn community will be skipping the game and observing the religion’s holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur.
The day is the Day of Atonement for the Jewish religion.
It is a day filled with fasting and prayer.
“I fast from sundown the day before through the day until the following sundown,” said Ben Freed, broadcast journalism and Middle Eastern Studies senior. “I spend most of the day in Synagogue praying. A lot of the day is focused on repentance for past deeds from the year.”
Plan II business sophomore Daley Epstein said Yom Kippur gives people the opportunity to self reflect. Although she is disappointed that she is missing the game, her religion is more important.
“The Red River Rivalry is something I hope to always attend; it is arguably the most exciting event on the Longhorn calendar,” Epstein said. “However, Yom Kippur is something I always need to attend, as its transformative powers in offering ultimate self-reflection, unequivocal rehabilitation of perspective and unparalleled religious connection give me an experience I cannot fathom missing out on.”
Freed and Epstein were a part of a group of students who met with the athletic department and athletic director DeLoss Dodds last year in an attempt to change the date of the game. Freed said the department and Dodds were very helpful, but changing the entire conference schedule would have been required.
“We had hoped that something would have been able to change and we still think that maybe more could have been done, but in general, they were very helpful and very open,” Freed said.
He said Dodds said the issue of the date had not been brought to his attention until students let him know of its significance.
About 10 percent of Texas’ undergraduates are Jewish.
“It’s not just the 4,000 estimated students that are Jewish, it’s the many alumni, Texas Exes, supporters, season ticket holders, who will not be able to go to this game or watch it,” Freed said.
Epstein said the response from the student body, season ticket holders, alumni and other supporters was amazing last year when a petition to change the day of the game was released.
“The cause transcended race, religion and politics with incontestable facts: The game is scheduled for the most significant day of the year for 10 percent of the student body,” Epstein said.
The game has been played on Yom Kippur five times in the past, most recently in 1997. The 2014 game is also scheduled for Yom Kippur. Freed hopes that because of conference realignment, the date of the game will be changed that year.
Epstein said she never even considered attending or watching the game this year.
“My Jewish identity is an incredibly defining aspect of who I am, an ever-present constant in my life, and even the Red River Rivalry can’t call that into question,” Epstein said. “But ultimately my decision on the matter is irrelevant, students should never be asked to make that choice.”
She said there is nothing to be done about the issue now and that he will be very eager to learn the outcome of the game once Yom Kippur is over.
“I’m not going to stop being any less of a Longhorn fan, and I hope that when I turn on my phone and turn on my TV at the end of the day at the end of the day Saturday that there will be good news waiting for me,” Freed said.
Epstein, who was born and raised a Longhorn fan, says it’s frustrating being left out of such an important game. But, like Freed, she will be eager to watch the game after.
“The reality of the situation is that Judaism will always take precedence, and the second the shofar blows signifying the end of the holiday, I will be sitting down on my couch, eyes glued to the television watching every TiVoed play until I watch the Longhorns get a victory,” Daley said.