Those watching Oberlin College play Case Western Reserve University this weekend will notice the game is being played on a nontraditional day for college football. Instead of playing at Oberlin's Savage Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 14, the game has been moved to Sunday, Sept. 15 in observance of Yom Kippur.
This may be the first time an Oberlin sporting event has been rescheduled due to a Jewish holiday.
Natalie Winkelfoos, the Delta Lodge director of athletics and physical education at Oberlin, explained that schedules for sports teams are put together months in advance of the season. The schedules are presented to a general faculty athletics committee and must be approved. This year the committee noticed several athletic events were scheduled on Yom Kippur.
"Typically in the past, we have played some games on a Jewish holiday. However, when this was presented to the entire faculty committee there were some concerns," she said.
Winkelfoos, along with Oberlin College President Marvin Krislov, who is Jewish, decided to make a change.
"The president and myself decided it was best if we could try to reschedule, move or postpone the games so we weren't forcing our Jewish athletes to choose between observing their holiday and participating in their sports," she said.
Gideon Reiz, a senior at Oberlin, said he found out at the end of the school year last year that a football game had been scheduled on Yom Kippur. He voiced his concerns to coaches and was told they were already working on getting the game moved.
"I think it's a really big step and I was really happy about it," said Reiz, who is also the president of Chabad at Oberlin. "We would never play a game on Easter or Christmas or even Thanksgiving, so this is a really big deal for the Jewish community here and at Case Western Reserve University."
Reiz, of Silver Spring, Md., has been a four-year member of the team. During his freshman and sophomore year, football games were also scheduled on Yom Kippur. His Jewish teammates played on the holiday, but Reiz decided not to play.
"It just felt wrong (to play) when it's the holiest day of the year and all my focus is supposed to be toward God and toward my prayers, and I shouldn't be playing football if that's what I'm supposed to be focused on," he said.
Besides this weekend's football game, a field hockey match and a women's soccer match were rescheduled, and a men's soccer match scheduled for Saturday was postponed till after sundown.
"This is part of what's so wonderful about Oberlin's tradition, that it really tries to support multiple traditions and create inclusiveness," said Rabbi Shimon Brand, the Jewish chaplain at Oberlin.
Brand added that per Oberlin policy, all classes are canceled on Yom Kippur. Canceling sporting events scheduled on Yom Kippur goes hand-in-hand with that policy.
Rabbi Mendy Alevsky of Chabad at CWRU emphasized the importance of colleges being willing to accommodate students and said it's amazing how far college policies have come. He also hopes Jewish students will be inspired by Oberlin's decision.
"What hits at my heart is there are so many Jewish students who care and will be inspired to care about Yom Kippur and be inspired to observe it as best as they can," Alevsky said.
Winkelfoos said Oberlin will continue to keep in mind religious holidays when scheduling sporting events. She has even started conversations with people from the North Coast Athletic Conference to raise awareness at other colleges.
"It doesn't matter how many athletes it affects," she said. "It it's going to affect one it needs to be addressed."