|Posted on Friday, December 09 @ 10:04:49 EST |
TENAFLY, NEW JERSEY - [TheKnish.com] Following renewed
guidelines from the National Yeshiva Athletics Association
of North America (NYAA-NA), many Jewish high schools around
the country are renaming their school team names to meet
more Jewish tastes. Needless to say, fans, parents and players
are not happy.
Michael Modernish, a senior and starting goalie for the
Tenafly Academy of Torah expressed his disgust to TheKnish.com.
"Last year we were the Tigersharks. We were a menacing
team with a menacing name. This year we are the Gefilte
Fish? Can you only imagine what that will do for morale?"
new t-shirt. Pathetic, no?
They have already lost their first game, a road game, to
the Manhattan Torah High School Masmidim. MTHS fans wreaked
havoc on the nerves of the Gefilte Fish and the officials
by chucking chrain onto the gym floor after each MTHS goal.
Even the press made a laughing stock of Modernish's team
by running the headline, "Masmidim slice Gefilte Fish
with chrain on the side."
But the team names weren't the half of it for the Tenafly
school. The NYAA-NA guidelines proved doubly painful as
they also required that schools not put their initials on
a shirt if it spells out an inappropriate phrase. Last year
the Tenafly school was known as the Tenafly Institute for
Torah, but the NYAA-NA learned that its girls' basketball
uniforms had the schools initials emblazoned across the
chest and it took umbrage. Outraged, the school's principal
had no choice but to change the middle letter. "We've
been sparring with the NYAA-NA all the time. To the point
at which we were exchanging Tit for Tat (quite literally).
So to spite them, that's why we chose the name Gefilte Fish,"
says TAT principal Chaim Speitfeld. "Before Gefilte
Fish, we were going to take the name
of the teams of the University
of South Carolina - the alma mater of our basketball
coach, but we were told that the only name we could match
to our male chicken logo was the Roosters." Speitfeld
has joined with the principals of other schools affected
by the naming rules, schools as far flung as the Dallas-Rosenthal
Egalitarian Yeshiva - Klafter-Unger Program and the Pittsburgh
Region United School of Torah.
The move did not come as a surprise, as insiders in the
Yeshiva Athletics world saw it coming. At their most recent
annual meeting held on the campus of the Catholic University,
the NYAA-NA board of governors voted unanimously on a resolution
that called for its member schools to drop 'non-kosher'
team nicknames and mascots and replace them with ones that
foster a better sense of Jewish identity and/or represent
Jewish themes. This move is seen as an appeasement to the
Charedization lobby who wants inter-school athletics to
be banned all together. The NYAA-NA hopes that by asking
member schools to adopt more 'heimish' nicknames they will
be able to address the critics of Yeshiva Athletics.
NYAA-NA spokesman Ephraim Ecksempel said that they were,
"Trying to have their member schools carry Jewish values
everywhere they go including the ball field." He went
on to list several of the criteria regarding acceptable
names for yeshiva teams. In addition to the aforementioned
rules regarding school initials, the new criteria require
that all names exemplify something Jewish and that terms
more commonly suited for "goyish" schools should
not be used. Out are the Crusaders, Knights and Warriors
and in are the Masmidim, Shomrim and Chayalim. While NYAA-NA
said animal names are acceptable, they further qualified
that statement by requiring that only names of kosher animals
be used. Gone are the days of the Lions and Tigers and Bears,
which will inevitably become the Chickens, Cows and Sheep
- Oh My!
Of course, schools are working hard to try to comply and
it isn't easy. For example, the Atlanta Solomon Schecter
High School, banned from using their initials, turned to
one of their religious studies teachers (an Orthodox Rabbi)
and asked him to come up with an appropriate name. They
loved the name, printed up booster materials and uniforms,
but then were flabbergasted to find out that the team name
- the Apikorsim, didn't paint them in a flattering light.
But, while many of the teams around the NYAA-NA are complaining,
other schools are doing okay with it. Take the South Hartford
Institute for Talmudic Studies. Banned from placing their
initials onto their uniforms, they picked a team name that
matches the schools affiliation with the Chabad Lubavtich
Movement - the Shluchim. The team and fans love it and they
have gone all out to play up the brand. They have warmup
suits that come complete with crushed black hats and the
team bus is referred to as the "Mitzvah Tank".
The team mascot - Shneur Zalman the Shaliach - runs up and
down the aisles in their stadium and puts tefillin on people
during game breaks. Even their fight song - Yechi Adoneinu
Morainu V'Rabainu - is pretty catchy and it doesn't hurt
that their best player is named - you guessed it- Elimelech
Moshiach. (Whenever he leaves the court, the fans chant
"We want Moshiach Now".) They have even had Matisyahu
perform at a halftime show during their home opener against
the Gefilte Fish, a game which the Shluchim won 7-3. The
headline the next morning read, "Shluchim have Gefilte
Fish for lunch." (Yonah Wolf)
This article was originally published on TheKnish.com - http://www.theknish.com
[Yonah Wolf played high school basketball as a member of
the New Haven Knights
and never put tefillin on anyone (at least not during a
game). When he's not writing for TheKnish.com, he gives
people a piece of his mind on his blog - Confessions
of an Orthodox Jewish Dad]