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The Penn Quakers lost their 9th straight victory against Villanova in the season-opening game of the football season. QB Keiffer Garton (14) dumps the ball to a receiver off-camera. Credit: Pete Lodato

Raised by a Jewish mother and a baseball-enthused father, I learned at an early age the story of Sandy Koufax’s refusal to pitch in the first game of the 1965 World Series because it fell on the holiest day of the Jewish year, Yom Kippur.

While it surely wasn’t the World Series, I (and the rest of Penn’s Jewish community) was faced with a secular-religious dilemma last week, as the first days of class coincided with Rosh Hashana.

Student reaction reported in The Daily Pennsylvanian was harsh, calling the University disrespectful and “completely unfair.”

And this Saturday, Jews will have to choose again between religious faith and faith in the Red and Blue, with the football season kicking off about an hour before the Yom Kippur fast ends.

It may be a trivial or easy decision for some, but I have talked to many students who are legitimately conflicted.

While it’s an unfortunate situation, it is unfair to place the blame on Penn or the Ivy League.

First, Penn Athletics has no say in the matter. They are told by the League what day the season starts, what day it ends and that they are expected to play 10 games in the interim.

Penn is doing what it can to ease the conflict. The school has scheduled the game to begin in the evening as opposed to a daytime start that would interrupt prayer services.

“I know the calendar goes back 5,000 years,” said Director of Athletics Steve Bilsky jokingly, “but I don’t understand it, because I think probably six out of the last seven years, one of the two [Jewish] holidays has come on a weekend.

“All we can really do on that is be sensitive to the holidays and play the game in the evening, which is something we want to do anyway,” he said. “It would certainly be insensitive to play the game at one o’clock or two o’clock.”

As for the Ivy League, schedule planners are well aware that Jews make up 21 percent of student bodies across the Ancient Eight.

But Penn and its peers are secular institutions. No special attention is given to any other religions, so it would be unfair for the Jewish community to receive special treatment.

In the end, religious choices like this come down to personal decisions, and the League is rightfully not taking a stance on it.

Plus, it may not be so bad to end the fast with a Franklin Field soft pretzel.

CALDER SILCOX is a junior science, technology and society major from Washington, D.C., and is Sports Editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian. His e-mail address is

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