Jewish football teams want a bowl of their own

The Hillel Community High School Hurricanes, one of three Jewish football teams in the country, pose for a group photo. (Hillel Community High School)

The Hillel Community High School Hurricanes, one of three Jewish football teams in the country, pose for a group photo. (Hillel Community High School)

LOS ANGELES (JTA) — Better polish up a trophy, Jewish football fans. 

Across the country, there are enough Jewish high school football teams  currently playing 11-man full-tackle football to hold a playoff and a bowl  game.

Back in September, JTA ran a story about one such team: the Jewish Academy Lions at the San Diego Jewish Academy High School in California. Since then, JTA has learned of two additional teams that play in an independent Florida league: the Ben Lipson Hillel Community High School of North Miami Beach and the high school of the David Posnack Hebrew Day School in Plantation.

According to Hurricanes outside linebacker Judah Makover, who is a senior at Ben Lipson Hillel this year, his team has finished its third season of  full-tackle play. “Our team also sings ‘Hatikvah’ at home games and does not  play on Friday nights or Saturdays,” Makover reported in an e-mail. 

“Before every game, the rabbinic dean at our school, Rabbi Chaim Albert,  gives us a dvar Torah to pump us up,” Makeover wrote. “We play the Posnack Rams once a year. The winner receives the ‘Kiddush Cup,’ a trophy, which has resided within Hillel’s halls for the past three years.”

Makeover, perhaps pumped from this year’s victory over Posnack, also suggested a postseason game pitting the best Jewish football team on the East Coast against the best Jewish football team on the West Coast.

Yes, he did say  that.

A J-Bowl.

Ilan Sredni, the father of a Hurricanes player, also thought a game would be a good idea. “It would be wonderful to see them play each other and form a bond,” he wrote in an e-mail to JTA.

“Maybe it could be like a round robin,” suggested Makover in a phone interview from his home in  Boca Raton. “There are already Jewish basketball tournaments. Why not  football?” he asked.

The game already has a potential media sponsor –  JTA.

“We could get behind that,” said Ami Eden, JTA’s editor in chief, when told of the idea.

“We could certainly supply the coverage, the trophy –  and the name. It needs to be something better than J-Bowl or Nose Bowl. Maybe The JTA News Bowl,” Eden wrote in an e-mail. “We would need some person or organization to come forward to help with the travel expenses. Maybe it could be played on the opening Sunday of the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America – that way, it would rotate cities each year, like the Super Bowl.”
The athletic directors at the three high schools are open to the idea.

“Let’s pursue it,” said Mike Quigley, athletic director at the San Diego Jewish Academy High School, whose team this year played a home game against a squad from Vancouver. “Perhaps we could also put together a Shabbaton. Can you put us in touch?”

Cindy Lyon, the athletic director at the Ben Lipson Hillel Community High School, who supervises a program covering 25 different sports, was more tempered in her response to the idea of a tournament. Though supportive of the idea, she wanted to  “see how we are going to pay for it.”

The athletic director at David Posnack Hebrew Day School, Mitch Evron,  who has a degree in sports medicine, likes the discipline and the respect for teamwork that football brings to his players and relishes the friendly rivalry his squad already has with Ben Lipson Hillel.

And he also likes the idea of a bicoastal Jewish bowl game. “If we could work something out, maybe something like a jamboree, the networking especially would be fun,” Evron said.

Makover agrees. “It would be awesome,” the Hurricanes linebacker said. “Football — it’s the American  game, and we’re excelling at it.”

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