Annual Charity Football Game Raises Money, Unites Alumni Community

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Annual Charity Football Game Raises Money, Unites Alumni Community

Jewish Text teacher Paul Blank poses with alumnus Dore Feith ('14) at last year's annual Paul Blank Invitational football game and fundraiser.

Jewish Text teacher Paul Blank poses with alumnus Dore Feith ('14) at last year's annual Paul Blank Invitational football game and fundraiser.

Jewish Text teacher Paul Blank poses with alumnus Dore Feith ('14) at last year's annual Paul Blank Invitational football game and fundraiser.

Jewish Text teacher Paul Blank poses with alumnus Dore Feith ('14) at last year's annual Paul Blank Invitational football game and fundraiser.

Ilan Cohen, Guest Writer

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In 1998, Jewish Text teacher Paul Blank stood outside on a field on a cold Thanksgiving morning with 13 students to play a small game of flag football. Eighteen years, 835 points and approximately $30,000 later, the Paul Blank Invitational is one of CESJDS’ most cherished traditions: a flag football game that unites alumni and students, while raising money for different charitable organizations.

The annual tradition started on a year when Blank was not returning home to New Jersey for Thanksgiving. He had always liked football and wanted to start a game with some students.

“I got some students together and some faculty together and some friends together and we played a football game and afterwards it was so successful that I decided I would try to make it an alumni event,” Blank said.

And so it began. Year after year alumni return to the school to take part in what has become, as alumnus Jonathan Sachs called it, “a great Thanksgiving tradition.” Sachs, a “lifer” of JDS, has been involved with the Invitational for 11 years. He was a referee in 2005 and 2006 during his junior and senior high school years. Since graduation, he has played every year and now serves on the Invitational Board of Directors.

Teams are selected in a variety of ways; some years teams are specifically organized, while in other years they are selected at random, Blank said.

“Some of the years [the teams are] everyone above a certain year — above 2000 or below 2000 or something like that. But sometimes I make even teams as best I can,” Blank said. “I think it’s almost always done now by older players and younger players.”

The event has raised approximately $30,000 for charities, including the Association for Safe International Road Travel, the Jewish Foundation for Group Homes and this year, the Reginald S. Lourie Center for Children’s Social & Emotional Wellness. The Invitational is a recognized non-profit organization with a full board of directors made up of JDS alumni.

In addition to the board of directors, Blank recruits help from student interns, who take on different tasks. This year senior Brian Shorr will be the head referee.

“I am super excited. Mr. Blank’s annual football game supports a really great cause, and this is the perfect way to start Thanksgiving — giving back to the community,” Shorr said.

This year will be the fourth Invitational for Shorr. During his freshman and sophomore years, he volunteered as one of Blank’s interns helping with set up, cleanup and other logistics. Last year, he was the head linesman. This year, his brother will be playing in the Invitational.

After the game, trophies are awarded to players. Those who donate more than $180 to the organization get to name an award. “They can be pretty funny,” Sachs said.

This year Blank will be donating a trophy for “A play that only a mother can love,” in honor of his mother, Felice Ruby Blank, who passed away earlier this year.

“The game is always intense and competitive … but in the end, everyone is there to be around old friends and to have a great time,” Shorr said.

For more information about the Paul Blank Invitational as well as how to donate, visit www.paulblankinvitational.com.