Shalom Life | July 01, 2014

Rabbi Fulfills Her Jeopardy Dream

Sari Laufer was determined to make sure she answered a Jewish question correctly

By: J.S. Côté

Published: June 10th, 2014 in News » World

Though Sari Laufer finally achieved her lifelong dream of appearing on renown TV game show Jeopardy, she can’t share how well she did until her first episode airs this Wednesday night, reports JTA.

The 35-year-old Reform rabbi, however, was willing to say that she was “really determined” to correctly answer the one Jewish question that came up throughout the game.

“No matter how I did, I didn’t want to be embarrassed,” she said, “particularly not on a question that my congregants would be like, ‘She doesn’t know that?’”

Growing up watching the show with her grandmother, a fervent Jeopardy fan, Laufer first auditioned as an undergrad of Northwestern University. She made it all the way to the contestant pool as a rabbinical student of Los Angeles’ Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, but was never called to tape an episode.

However, while pregnant with her first child last year, Laufer received an email from the show inviting her to interview in person on New York City’s Upper West Side. She again made it to the contestant pool, meaning she could receive a call any time in the next 18 months.

With the months following the interview consumed with new motherhood (her son Jacob is now 8 months old) closely followed by the loss of her Jeopardy-loving grandmother in December, Laufer said she “literally forgot about it.”

Because of a year punctuated with these critical life events, Laufer said she was able to put the show in perspective, relax, and enjoy herself, rather than feeling the pressure to win.

“I was able to be there and feel like my grandmother was with me,” she said.

Laufer, associate rabbi at Manhattan’s Congregation Rodeph Sholom, is not the first rabbi—or even the first female one—to make an appearance on the popular quiz show. In 2011, Conservative Rabbi Joyce Newmark of Teaneck, New Jersey won $29 000 on the program.

“I think more than anything, I’m just totally comfortable in front of a crowd,” Laufer said when asked if her rabbinical training helped her succeed on the show. “Some people, when they get in there with the lights and microphone, they get overwhelmed. That didn’t faze me.”

“Had I gotten one of those Hebrew Bible categories,” she added, “it would have been fantastic.”

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