LOS ANGELES (JTA) — On Super Sunday, the alefs and bets in Green Bay and Pittsburgh will be thinking about X’s and O’s.
They’ll even be up for a little friendly wager.
On the morning of Feb. 6, many hours before the NFC champion Green Bay Packers battle the AFC champion Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV, Rabbi Shaina Bacharach of the Conservative Congregation Cnesses Israel in Green Bay, says her religious school will square off against the school at the Or L’Simcha, Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh.
“The losing city will make a contribution to the tzedakah of choice of the school in the winning city,” Bacharach said. “If we win, their rabbi will also wear a Packer shirt and kippah afterward. If they win, I’ll wear a Steeler shirt and cap.”
Shelly Schapiro, the Pittsburgh school’s director of education, says the schools hope to connect through Skype and "verbalize our challenge to each other,” adding that she hopes to raise some “ruach,” or Jewish spirit, with the activity.
Bacharach adds, “We’ll encourage the kids to wear Packer gear to Sunday school and show their Packer pride.”
After all, Knesses Israel has a Packer connection: “One of our members, Rick Chernick, is on the team’s board of directors,” she notes.
The activity between the Wisconsin and Pennsylvania schools is part of the game plan of fun and tzedakah-oriented events being executed for adults and children on Super Sunday.
Synagogues and men’s clubs of most Jewish denominations will be among those joining the religious schools in holding events for the big game in suburban Dallas featuring two of the National Football League’s storied franchises.
In Pittsburgh, a local men’s club has arranged a Super Bowl pool to raise money for his Orthodox synagogue.
“We sold out,” said Dale Moritz of Pittsburgh’s Poale Zedeck congregation, who organized the pool. “We sold 100 tickets at $10 apiece.”
Ticket holders will have their names entered on a “you pick the score” game that is set up on a printed grid. The score at the end of each quarter determines the winner.
“You might think you’re winning,” said Moritz, who feels the pool adds some drama to the proceedings on the field, “and then you get knocked out by a field goal at the end of a quarter."
In shul, like everywhere else in Pittsburgh, the Steelers are the topic of conversation, Moritz acknowledges.
“But only after kiddush,” he adds quickly.
At B’nai Israel, a Reform temple in Oklahoma City, Super Sunday also will carry an element of chance, albeit gastronomical.
The temple Brotherhood, which organizes the Super Bowl party, prides itself on baking homemade pizzas for the crowd. Brotherhood president Lou Barlow, the veteran organizer of the event, hopes to introduce this year a dessert pizza he calls “The Elvis“ made of peanut butter, bananas and syrup — reminiscient of the King’s favorite sandwich.
Barlow describes the scene in the temple kitchen as “Beer, knives, a 500-degree oven and too many cooks.”
“What could possibly go wrong?” he asks.
“We have the best time,” says Barlow, who sees the kitchen camaraderie as both an opportunity for members to become better acquainted with each other and a way to introduce new taste sensations like "The Elvis."
The Brotherhood also uses the occasion to hold a “Souper Bowl" by collecting cans of soup for Oklahoma’s Regional Food Bank.
Elsewhere in the Midwest, in Nebraska, Yachad, the National Jewish Council for Disabilities plans on using Super Sunday to level the playing field for the developmentally disabled.
Janet McCarthy, the Omaha program coordinator for a New York-based organization affiliated with the Orthodox Union, says Yachad’s Super Bowl party will be held in a rented elder day care center with a large-screen TV.
"All the Yachad members are totally engaged,” McCarthy writes. “What is most enjoyable is their freedom to be a true spectator. That includes the right to stand up and yell, to jump up and down, and to dance and sing at halftime.”
“Everyone is looking forward to the Black Eyed Peas,” she adds, referring to the popular band performing at the intermission.
Heading south to Mobile, Ala., a day that highlights intense competition may introduce an atmosphere of cooperation for two synagogues.
Jonathan Siegel, the Super Bowl party organizer at Congregation Ahavas Chesed, says he’s inviting members of the neighboring historic Spring Hill Avenue Temple, a Reform congregation, to his join the crew from his Conservative congregation.
“They have a lot of kids," says Siegel,” a father of three who hopes to create a “comfortable, family friendly event. “I thought the Super Bowl party was a way to bring the Jewish community of Mobile together."
“Let’s Come Together,” suggests the party flyer.
In downtown Dallas, not far from Cowboy Stadium in suburban Arlington, Chabad is inviting out-of-town Packers’ and Steelers’ fans to put aside their rivalry for a day or two and join them for a Super Bowl Shabbat.
“We are expecting fans from all over,” said Zvi Drizin, a Chabad-Lubavitch rabbi who often works with young adults.
The program includes Friday evening services and a dinner, where Drizin says that “We are planning on serving super bowls of matzah balls.”
Shabbat morning services the next day will feature the Torah portion Terumah, which is about the building of the Mishkan, the holy sanctuary. Drizin, who is still trying to find a ticket for the big game, is planning on giving the d’var Torah.
“Terumah is about how everything is contributed,” said Drizen, who is thinking of how he will tie his talk into the Super Bowl. "And that’s all about teamwork.”
(Edmon J. Rodman is a JTA columnist who writes on Jewish life from Los Angeles. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)