Monday, February 13, 2017

Yeshiva University Student Wins $18,000 on Jeopardy!

You just can't make this up. An Orthodox Jewish student from Yeshiva University finished with exactly $18,000 on tonight's "College Championship" episode of "Jeopardy!" That's one thousand times chai for those of you familiar with the "Jewish math." What's more is that Netanel Paley, who obviously knows his Torah, was fortunate when the Final Jeopardy clue was a quote from the beginning of the Book of Numbers. Netanel answered correctly after another contestant wrote "The Book of Exodus." When I saw the clue I actually thought Netanel would write "Bamidbar" as his response.

Netanel Paley of Yeshiva University during Final Jeopardy

Unfortunately, the 21-year-old Yeshiva junior came in 2nd place despite recognizing the text from the Torah. According to an interview with the Algemeiner last month, Netanel says he was a state finalist for the National Geographic Geography Bee and a regional finalist for the Scripps National Spelling Bee in high school. He said that he prepared for the “Jeopardy!” match by poring over reference books and crash-course manuals on an array of topics. He told the Algemeiner he was "very humbled" to represent the Jewish community in the competition and that if he had been given a chance, he "would have liked to say something on air about how proud I am to be an Orthodox Jew and how proud I am to attend YU and learn Judaic and general studies at the same place. But I guess just appearing on TV with my kippah (skullcap) and payot (sidelocks) was nice. I hope I made a good impression."

Netanel Paley Yeshiva University Jeopardy
Netanel Paley of Yeshiva University with Alex Trebek on "Jeopardy!"

Many contestants on "Jeopardy!" are Jewish and I've written about some of the more notable ones in the past like Matt Jackson, who currently holds the 4th-longest winning streak in the show's history. (Matt called me after I wrote about him to thank me and to elaborate on his Jewish beliefs.) I also wrote about the first female rabbi to have competed on Jeopardy!", Conservative Rabbi Joyce Newmark. Rabbi Geoff Mitelman, a Reform Rabbi and a fellow Rabbis Without Border alum, wrote about his "Jewish Approach" to being a contestant on "Jeopardy" in a recent Huffington Post column.

Female Orthodox Rabbi Marianne Novak with Alex Trebek on Jeopardy
Female Orthodox Rabbinical Student Marianne Novak with Alex Trebek on Jeopardy

Marianne Novak, an Orthodox woman from Skokie, Illinois who teaches at the Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning and is studying to be a rabbi at Yeshivat Maharat competed in an episode of "Jeopardy" this past October. Unfortunately for Marianne, not only did she come in last place, but she wasn't able to have a viewing party the night her taped competition aired because it was yuntif. So, if you're ever on "Jeopardy!" and the clue is "This female Orthodox rabbinical student appeared on an episode of Jeopardy! that aired on the Jewish festival of Sukkot" the correct answer is: "Who is Rabbi Marianne Novak."

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