Monday, October 15, 2007

Tailgating is a Football Fan Term

Just two weeks ago, my two kids in the States sent me pictures of an activity I wasn't aware of: football tailgating. My cousin-in-law Barry was playing host.

Well, in Wisconson, this is the kosher way to do it:-

Have prayers and Packers, too
Orthodox Jews worship at Lambeau tailgate

Green Bay - If you're going to have a kosher tailgate at Lambeau Field, you might as well go all the way.

That means you light up the coals of the kosher grill and bring out the kosher hot dogs, beef, chicken and brats.

And you recite morning prayers in Hebrew, even if a rock band is on a nearby stage blaring "Brown Sugar."

So Sunday, Rabbi Shais Taub of the Chabad Lubavitch of Wisconsin led a group of 10 Orthodox Jews on a pilgrimage from Milwaukee deep into Packerland.

They tailgated across the street from Lambeau, in a grass-covered parking lot, next door to Kroll's West, where butter burgers - definitely not kosher - are a specialty.

And they prayed, with some of the men and their sons donning a prayer shawl called a tallit and phylacteries, two small leather boxes containing verses of Scripture.

They stood out amid the familiar green-and-gold sea. And they showed that people can find or express their faith at a house of worship or a house of sports.

"What's the point?" Taub said. "Number one, Judaism is not relegated to the synagogue or the study hall. When you're a Jew, you're a Jew everywhere. If a group of Jews want to go to a Packer game, we do it like Jews."

"Number two, Jewish pride," he added. "Some Jews should see this and say, 'You know what, there is nothing to hide.' I can be openly and boldly Jewish and do that anywhere on earth and go where I want to go."

The men faced east toward Jerusalem, which also happened to the direction toward Lambeau Field. They prayed, rocking forward and back. Their voices mixed with the more familiar sounds of pre-game rituals at Lambeau.

Nearby, a few fans wore blank expressions on their faces, unsure of what was going on. A couple of people snapped photos. And nobody noticed that among the group was former Packers offensive lineman Alan Veingrad, who is now known as Shlomo Veingrad.

Veingrad still stands 6 feet 5, but he has dropped plenty of weight since his playing days. He now has a bushy, gray beard and beneath a Packers cap, he makes sure to wear a yarmulke.

"I think it's important to be proud of being Jewish," said Veingrad, who played for the Packers in the late 1980s and won a Super Bowl ring with the Dallas Cowboys in the 1990s.

Veingrad, now 44, lives in Florida and works as an account executive for a private lending company. He also gives speeches, detailing his quest for a more fulfilling and rewarding life. He became more observant in 2003.

"It's a beautiful thing that you can express your religion," he said.

And that's what the tailgate was all about - religion, food, friendship and, yes, even football.

After praying, Veingrad and a friend poured whiskey into a couple of small cups, said l'chaim and drank the sweet, smoky liquid.

"We're here being Jews," Sam Stern said. "We're enjoying the Packers and enjoying the day."

What would the Rebbe say?

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