U-Md. football offers a handy workaround for Shabbat-observant fans

Some University of Maryland Terrapins players jump into the stands before playing the Wisconsin Badgers at Byrd Stadium in College Park. Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images via JTA

Some University of Maryland Terrapins players jump into the stands before playing the Wisconsin Badgers at Byrd Stadium in College Park.
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images via JTA

It can be difficult to be a Shabbat-observant Jew and a college football fan. The majority of NCAA football games are held on Saturdays, the day of the week when the activities of observant Jews are strictly limited. Watching a game on TV, for instance, is not allowed.
But what if one wants to attend a game in person? Shabbat laws prohibit the use of electricity or traveling by motor vehicle, but they don’t prevent one from walking to a game and taking in the action from a seat like any other fan.

The main obstacle, however, comes at an unexpected juncture: the entry gates. Having one’s ticket swiped by the kind of electronic scanner found in most stadiums counts as using electricity.

The University of Maryland — home to one of the biggest Jewish student populations in the country — now offers a workaround. As Mitzpeh, the school’s independent Jewish newspaper, reports, the university allows students to obtain wristbands (instead of traditional tickets that require scanning) days before Shabbat (because any kind of economic transaction — like buying a ticket — is also prohibited on the holy day).

There will always be some gray areas at a game, such as the inescapable jumbotrons that broadcast the action happening below. As one of Maryland’s Hillel rabbis, Aderet Drucker, told Mitzpeh, some Jews will see the giant TV screens as a deal-breaker while others will be happy that they can watch a screen on Shabbat without having to turn it on themselves. (It’s the initiation of an electrical current that is strictly forbidden.)

—JTA News and Features

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