Rooting Rabbis Up Super Bowl Ante


The spirited rivalry that has captured the attention of many sports fans during the last two weeks will end Sunday evening.

Not the Super Bowl LII game between the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles — rather, the competition for bragging rights between Paul Kipnes and Joshua Aaronson, who were ordained by Hebrew Union College in the early 1990s and now work 10 miles from each other in Southern California.

Rabbi Kipnes, spiritual leader of Congregation Or Ami, in Calabasas, Calif., is a native of Worcester, Mass. He’s “obsessed with all manner of Boston sports teams.”

Rabbi Aaronson, who heads Temple Judea in Tarzana, Calif., grew up in Philadelphia. He’s devoted to the Eagles.

Since their respective teams on Jan. 21 clinched their places in Sunday’s National Football League championship, they have taken their good-natured fandom to another level. On Facebook.

In the last dozen days, the rabbis have engaged in friendly trash-talking and rabbinical ribbing of each other’s athletic leanings. Their exchanges have, as of early this week, drawn some 6,000 followers.

“This is our year. The Eagles are clearly the best team in the NFL,” declared Rabbi Aaronson on a video on his Facebook page. “The only people who are rooting for the Patriots live in Dallas, Washington or New England.” The Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins play in the NFL’s National Football Conference with the Eagles. As do the New York Giants, whom the rabbi did not mention.

Responded Rabbi Kipnes, “My Patriots are guaranteed to win.”

The rabbis, prearranging their shtick, first challenged each other to a food-centered wager, to be supplied at the winning congregation’s Oneg on a future Shabbat — Rabbi Aaronson to bring Philadelphia soft pretzels, with mustard; Rabbi Kipnes, Dunkin Donuts, that originated in Boston.

Next came a tzedakah wager: the congregation of the rabbi whose team loses Sunday’s game will donate $10 a point for the winning score to Camp Newman, a Union for Reform Judaism facility in Santa Rosa, Calif., which sustained heavy damage in the state’s wildfires in October.

“Start cleaning out your piggy bank, buddy,” Rabbi Kipnes goaded his friend. “All good bets should be for a higher purpose,” he said.

“It’s all in good fun” with a message — “every moment in life has an opportunity for tzedakah,” Rabbi Aaronson told The Jewish Week in a telephone interview.

“There’s Torah to be taught through everything,” said Rabbi Kipnes, who has collaborated with his colleague on educational and social justice activities since coming to Or Ami.

The Kipnes-Aaronson competition is in addition to the traditional bets between members of the clergy who are currently domiciled in their favorite teams’ cities. Congregation Rodeph Shalom of Philadelphia and Boston’s Temple Israel have challenged each other to donate 18 (Chai) times the point difference in the final score to the winning synagogue’s charity of choice.

The rabbis’ Boston-Philadelphia rivalry ends after Sunday’s Super Bowl, Rabbi Aaronson said. Though the National Hockey League Boston Bruins will host the Philadelphia Flyers on March 8, he’s not planning to bet on that game. The Super Bowl is “a special game.” Little interest in a regular season game.

Unless the rabbis’ hometown teams meet in a playoff series. Then all bets are on.