NFL sets Washington games on Rosh Hashanah, Shabbat


A penalty flag might yet be thrown for unnecessary roughness. Not against a player for a hit, but against the NFL because of an avoidable scheduling conflict.

The 2014 NFL schedule, released last Wednesday, features one game played on Rosh Hashanah and two games played on Shabbat. The Washington Redskins will play prime time home games on both days – and both against division opponents.

On Sept. 25, the second night of Rosh Hashanah, Washington will play the New York Giants at 8:25 p.m. in Week 4 of the season. And, in what could be a key Week 16 game to determine the NFC East playoff picture, Washington will play the Eagles at home on Dec. 20.

Jewish law dictates that it is not permissible to travel or spend money on Shabbat or holidays, and the second night of Rosh Hashanah features services that most observant Jews attend.

Mitch Taragin is a life-long Washington football fan and a season ticket holder. His dedication to the team is such that his license plate is a derivative of “Go Skins.”

This year, he says he’ll have to sell tickets to at least one game.

“Do I think it’s fair? Not really, but what are we [Jews], less than 1 percent of the country?” said Taragin. “I’ve learned to take it in stride.”

Taragin acknowledges that a lot of events need to take place on Saturdays and during holidays, but thinks that both of these games could avoid their conflicts.

“This year had the potential to have no conflicts [with Jewish holidays] — they’re all Thursday-Friday yontifs,” he said. Most NFL games are played on Sundays, with one or two played on Monday nights each week, and several also played Thursday nights and Saturdays.

“I would love for [Jewish Redskins owner Daniel] Snyder to make a statement,” Taragin said. “I don’t think he would or will. I know he’s observant enough to know [about the holidays]. He should probably request to make a change for the Rosh Hashanah game. With the Eagles game, it doesn’t have to be until after Shabbat.”

The Week 16 matchup against Philadelphia has yet to be given a time. While some Saturday games are played at 4:30 p.m., most are evening games. In late December, Shabbat ends before 6 p.m., making the usual start time for night games of 8:30 p.m. or so convenient for those who observe Shabbat.

Last year, the Baltimore Ravens’ home opener was surrounded by a similar controversy. Then the defending Super Bowl champions, Baltimore was slated to open its season at home against the Denver Broncos in a highly anticipated AFC Championship Game rematch on Thursday, Sept. 5 — the second night of Rosh Hashanah.

The game ended up conflicting with an Orioles home game, and because the two teams’ stadiums share a parking lot, they cannot play a home game on the same night. NFL rules dictate that, in such situations, the game is to be moved to the night before which, in this case, would have been the first night of Rosh Hashanah.

But both NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Ravens President Dick Cass dismissed the idea as “not up for consideration” due to the holiday, JTA reported.

In the end, the game was changed to being an away game for Baltimore, played at the originally scheduled date and time and in Denver.

Of this year’s schedule, Taragin said, “I would love for the NFL to say, ‘You know what? We made a mistake,’ and move the game to a Sunday.” The following Sunday, however, is the Fast of Gedaliah. While it does not carry the same restrictions as Rosh Hashanah and Shabbat, going to a game on a fast day would make enjoying the game “difficult,” Taragin said.

He stressed that the team “absolutely” has a positive relationship with the Jewish community. Taragin, who hosts a kosher tailgate before each game, has also lit a menorah and set up a sukkah in the FedEx Field parking lot in previous years.

Taragin plans to wear the team’s burgundy and gold colors to Rosh Hashanah services on Sept. 5. “My wife knows I’m wearing a [Redskins] … tie to services. And if I can’t go [to the game], I’ll sell my three tickets and make some good money.”

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  1. Regarding the scheduling of a game on the evening beginning the 2nd of Tishrei, 5775, I sympathize with you, but cannot agree. Traditionally, Reform congregations have observed one day of Rosh Hashanah as prescribed in Leviticus 23:24 and Numbers 29:1. I sympathize, but I don’t agree. See Central Conference of American Rabbis Responsa No. 5759.7: “The Second Festival Day and Reform Judaism”,


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