Clad in green, students at Perelman Jewish Day School (PJDS) cheered for the Philadelphia Eagles at pep rallies Feb. 1 that included motivational speeches, chants and a Hebrew translation of the Eagles fight song.
School Rabbi Chaim Galfand, who wore an Eagles jersey at the rally, led the students in song at Perelman’s Stern Center in Wynnewood. Another pep rally at Perelman’s Forman Center in Melrose Park occurred earlier that morning.
“Our students here, they have a foot in the American culture and a foot in Jewish culture,” Galfand said. “It’s kind of like you can field goals with both feet so, in a way, the best winning combo you can imagine.”
Galfand said he worked with a team of other rabbis and Perelman faculty to write the Hebrew translation of the fight song. He wanted to ensure that the rhythm, and not just the lyrics, made sense.
One challenge they encountered in translating the song was the part that goes “Score a touchdown, 1, 2, 3.” The literal Hebrew translation of that countdown — achat, shtaim, shalosh — has too many syllables, so they decided to translate it as “Touchdown, crazy.”
“We believe in the Eagles, and we are proud of them, and we are super excited, and we have faith in them, and we believe,” Stern Center Principal Wendy Smith said at the rally. “So Sunday night, when you’re all glued to your televisions, and you’re up really, really late at night, that’s OK, you can do that.”
PJDS also made a wager with Solomon Schechter Day School in Boston, in which the head of school in the city with the losing team will wear the winning team’s jersey to school on Feb. 5, as well as plant 70 trees in Israel for the country’s 70th birthday in honor of the winning team.
“We want to make sure that what we do is not just some bet that’s going to accrue to the benefit of one or two people,” Galfand said. “This is something that’s marking a milestone and also, as we are doing here at the school, we are planting seeds for the future.”
The pep rally ended with Galfand speaking about how Jews root for underdogs, like the Eagles or the Maccabees, and he connected the game to the Torah, which says that God took the Israelites out of Egypt “on the wings of eagles.”
“Now wait, who took us out of Egypt really?” Galfand asked the crowd of students.
“God!” they said back.
“That means that God is an …” Galfand began.
“Eagle!” the students cheered.
Galfand said that, as a rabbi, some might expect him to pray for the Eagle’s victory, but he won’t.
“We don’t pray to God to step in and intercede like that,” he said. “I guess we’d say, ‘Give us the strength, give us the patience, give us the perseverance that we will not give up, and we will not forget who we are.’ I like to think the Eagles naturally have what it takes to be the victors.”