Above: The University of Georgia’s Stegeman Coliseum.
By Rebecca McCarthy
For Rachel Schwartz, the president of Hillel at UGA, it was bad enough that the University of Georgia Homecoming Planning Committee booked a concert on Yom Kippur. Both Hillel and Rohr Chabad at UGA were told weeks ago about the Oct. 11 conflict.
But then Schwartz learned recently that NEEDTOBREATHE, the group playing the homecoming celebration, was a self-classified Christian rock band.
Taken together, those two developments were just too much. She had to speak out, even if Jewish students are only 5 percent of the UGA population.
“When we realized how upset Jewish students were, we contacted the administration to learn what we can do to make sure they feel included,” said Schwartz, 20, an international affairs major from Roswell. “I don’t think any of it is intentional, but we want to make sure this doesn’t happen again. It was like adding insult to injury.”
Two years ago, the independent UGA Athletic Association set the homecoming football game on Yom Kippur.
The planning committee for homecoming events schedules “something every night, with the homecoming parade on the Friday before the game,” said Stan Jackson, the director of student affairs communications and marketing initiatives at UGA.
“It’s unfortunate the University Union didn’t schedule the concert on a different day, but I know it wasn’t done from a malicious place but from a lack of recognition,” Chabad Rabbi Michoel Refson said. “The university administration is understanding and sympathetic to Jewish students; they recognize it’s an oversight that shouldn’t have happened.”
Jackson said the date for the concert was the only day when the band and the venue, the university’s Stegeman Coliseum, were available. The date and time were set months ago; of course, the dates for the High Holidays were easily available then.
“They said this is the only day available,” Hillel’s Schwartz said. “We understand why it was done, but it doesn’t mean it was OK that it was done.”