Saturday, October 21, 2017

Netanel Paley (Credit: David Khabinsky/Yeshiva University)

Netanel Paley (Credit: David Khabinsky/Yeshiva University)

Teaneck’s Netanel Paley has a knack for information. Having competed—and placed—in spelling bees (fourth place in a regional spelling bee for Northern New Jersey and second place in the New Jersey State Finals of the National Geographic Bee), and having a long-standing fascination with the Jeopardy! game show, Paley seemed to have been a natural contender for their college tournament. “I’ve always wanted to be on the show, and more recently on the College Tournament because it looked a lot more fun than the regular show,” expressed Paley.

This Yeshiva University senior has quite a resume already. Besides his accomplishments at the aforementioned spelling bees, he is a biology major, with aspirations to go into child and adolescent psychology, and a music minor. He participated in high school Torah bowl tournaments, and cramming information for on-the-spot recall is not foreign to him. But with these vast accomplishments, Paley’s respectful and warm demeanor shines through first. Rather than boast of his accomplishments, he credited those around him as part of his success. He spoke of his family with pride and hakarat hatov, and described YU’s assistance in representing their school as well as the Jeopardy production team and teammates as part of the positive experience.

The road to Jeopardy! is not as much a straightforward achievement-based path as one might think. Just wanting to be on the show and knowing an assortment of random information is not enough to make it to the show. Apparently, even within the top performers, there is a lottery type of selection process to decide who eventually makes it to the top. Out of 4,000 applicants, 250 are selected at random and then narrowed down to the 15 who will eventually appear on the show.

Having qualified for the college championships, and a trip to LA in the near future, emotion definitely grew for Paley. “Excitement and even anxiety built up the closer I got to the show,” said Paley. But throughout the experience, he described a feeling of overall enthusiastic anticipation.

Very proud of his role as an Orthodox Jew, Paley looked forward to appearing on such a famous and respected game show with his kippah and payot—and of course, the Yeshiva University sweatshirt. “I felt proud and humbled to represent everyone on national television,” Paley stated. “I wanted to make Orthodoxy both normal and special to the public. It was a surreal experience.”

As for his fellow contestants, Paley was impressed by the group he met. “It was an inspiring, cohesive group,” he explained, and described the general sentiment among players as one of camaraderie rather than competition. Though they did not get to spend extended periods of time getting to know one another, in a nod to the times, many of the college championship contestants are now Facebook friends.

Everyone is eagerly anticipating Paley’s Jeopardy! appearance, and The Teaneck Doghouse invites customers to watch Paley’s game show debut, February 13 at 7 p.m. Anyone who arrives before 7 will receive 50 percent off their order of wings as they try to match wits with the college champions.

Those who know Paley are not surprised by the menschlich way he handled himself, nor are they surprised by his achievement. Yeshiva University Vice President for University and Community Life, Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander, added a humorous twist that still sheds light on the type of well-rounded individual Paley is. “I’m hoping they present Netanel with the following answer: ‘A close-knit, unified collective of students in New York City actively engaged in giving back to their surrounding communities,’” Rabbi Brander began. “The question would be, ‘What is Eruv?’” referring to a chesed network started by Paley. “We at Yeshiva are proud of what he has already accomplished and look forward to watching him on Jeopardy!”

By Jenny Gans