No matter what happens on Sunday when the New England Patriots take on the New York Giants, Needham’s Temple Beth Shalom will be a winner thanks to a friendly little wager with a temple in Larchmont, NY.
If the Patriots win, Rabbi Jeff Sirkman and his congregation at Larchmont Temple in New York will display a colorful sign that congratulates the Pats and the Needham temple on the win. This “Mazel tov!” will hang in the temple’s foyer for one week following the game.
The wager also includes a “reverse” component—to help the New Yorkers cope with the Giants’ loss, the Needham congregation will send them one case of New England’s famous NECCO Wafers and two dozen chocolate chips cookies from The Boston Chipyard at Quincy Market, Boston. Temple Beth Shalom rabbis Jay Perlman and Todd Markley will also wear New York Giants jerseys for a day while at the temple.
“We negotiated back and forth and tried to think of something that would be fun and family-friendly and some things that were quintessentially Boston and some things that were quintessentially New York,” Perlman said.
If the Pats don’t do so well (fingers crossed!), Temple Beth Shalom congregants will hang a “Mazel tov, Giants!” banner in their foyer, and the New York contingent will send over one grate of Guss’ Pickles and one New York-famous Junior’s Cheesecake. The New York rabbis will also wear Patriots gear.
The New York food will be put to good use in Needham—feeding kids in the temple's religion school, Perlman said.
“It’s just a great way to make a connection with the broader Jewish community,” he said of the wager.
Temple Beth Shalom has been participating in friendly wagers of this type for many years, dating back to 2004, when the Boston Red Sox won the World Series. That year, with the Sox taking on the St. Louis Cardinals, the Needham congregation connected with a group in St. Louis, MO.
In 2007, when the Sox were back in the World Series—this time against the Colorado Rockies—the Needham temple made a wager with a temple in Boulder, CO.
“What’s different about this year is it’s a reverse bet. The winning congregation is going to make the losing congregation feel better by sending the food,” Perlman said. “In the past, with the other two bets, the winning congregation has been on the receiving end.”
In 2004, Temple Beth Shalom received two cases of Fitz’s Rootbeer, provided by the St. Louis-based company once they learned about the wager. In 2007, the Boulder congregation sent the Needham temple a case of IZZE soda.
Also as part of this year’s wager, each temple has agreed to make a contribution to the other’s tzedakah cause.
“So if the Patriots lose, then we will make a contribution to Larchmont Temple’s charity of choice,” Perlman said. “We’ve agreed to take a combination of the final score and multiply it by 10, and that will be the amount.”
So what does Perlman think will happen on Sunday? The Needham rabbi declined to make his own prediction.
“I root for the Patriots, and I root for a good game,” he said. “And I root for good commercials.”