Ok, lets get this out of the way, I am a sports fan. People who know me understand that and my classes and such are, at times, sprinkled with sports images. Cannot help it, blame my dad. I do remember watching that 1st Super Bowl in my apartment in Cincinnati. A few fellow rabbinic students gathered to watch, there was maybe a bowl of chips, some dip and maybe a pizza. Who knew? As many of you know, it is now a wing-pizza-hoagie fest, replete with scores of people who gather to perform now sacred rites; such as which commercial is best! This is really a high point in America’s secular religion. Couple the Super Bowl with Thankgsgiving and you have twin American secular Festivals. If you can add 4th of July, you can get a tri-fecta of festivals that cut across religious and cultural and economic lines in our increasingly divided country. These days speak to us all, regardless of where we come from and what we may believe.
For many clergy, this reality is challenging. As affiliation with “organized” religion (whatever that means) wanes and the number of non religiously identified people grows (at least according to the Pew reports), increasingly clergy ponder the question of membership, affiliation and a changing religious landscape. Maybe that is why some congregations will be having Super Bowl parties! Just get them into the building and maybe something will rub off? Or, is it another way of reinforcing what people are really searching for; community and relationships.
As I travel around doing work for Jewish Sacred Aging, I am usually in congregations. Increasingly, the issue that underscores why people remain affiliated has very little to do with the theology of a particular congregation, rather, it hinges on relationships and community. These realities are increasingly important for Boomers. We are aware that we are in our own age of transitions and thus, become more aware of the need to be with people, to secure a sense of community and to affirm relationships. Major events that focus on these issues draw us. The three major American Holy Days; Thanksgiving, Super Bowl and 4th of July all focus on getting together with people for no other reason than to enjoy something. And there is nothing wrong with that! Yes, we all know that this cannot replace the spiritual aspects of life that a religious community can provide, and these spiritual issues also are becoming more important.
So we look forward to the rites and rituals that accompany this Super festival; betting on everything (maybe congregations can introduce types of proposition betting as a means of soft fund=raising), over-eating food that has no nutritional value, the over creation of wingless chickens and just hanging out with friends and family. Have fun. And remember, the real reason to celebrate the Super Bowl, when it is over, that means just 2 weeks until Spring Training begins! Let’s Go Phillies!
Rabbi Richard F Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.