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SAR Graduate Competes on ‘Jeopardy!’

Ittai Sopher (right) with host Ken Jennings.

Answer: Someone from our community who competed on a nationally televised game show this week. If you said, “Who is Ittai Sopher?” then you’d be correct. His episode aired Wednesday, July 12.

Englewood native Sopher appeared on “Jeopardy!,” the hit game show famous for requiring answers to be posed in the form of a question. He has always enjoyed acquiring trivia knowledge, so when he discovered “Jeopardy!”—and better yet, learned that he might be able to be a contestant—he was overjoyed.

Despite being able to take the online qualifying test only once a year, he took it as often as possible until he finally began climbing the ladder towards contestant-hood last year. After numerous more tests and interviews, and a lot of preparation, Sopher at last got to fly out to Los Angeles, for the big day at age 26.

In this process of qualifying for the show, he was one of the lucky ones. Up to 100,000 people take the first-level online test annually, and only around 2,500 to 3,000 of those make it past that level. Even fewer, as low as 400, will actually make it through the rest of the project to the show each year. Fortunately, because the process takes so long, all the tests and evaluations were relatively spread out, allowing him plenty of time to prepare.

Filming day itself was “intense and terrifying,” Sopher said. He had hoped he wouldn’t be the first contestant under the spotlight, and fortunately he got the Wednesday game, which gave him a bit of time to settle into the idea of actually being on TV. Actually playing, however, was more than just fun—it was “exhilarating.” And of course, his SAR education in both middle and high school didn’t hurt his chances with any potential questions about Israel or the Bible.

Looking back on the experience, Sopher said he enjoys watching “Jeopardy!” even more than he did before, despite most players saying the opposite. For example, he has a better appreciation of the other contestants now, knowing what they’ve been through. After being up there in the spotlight, it’s much easier to sympathize with them when, for example, they get a question wrong, Sopher noted.

And of course, Sopher was not alone on this journey. He and his mother would always watch “Jeopardy!” together, and though his grandmother couldn’t always join them, they’d discuss each episode the next day. “Actually, I think telling my mother that I got on was the best part of the entire experience,” Sopher said.

And he’s not the first member of the New Jersey Jewish community to compete on “Jeopardy!.” Melissa Klapper, a Bais Yaakov graduate from Baltimore, competed in March, and before her, Nancy Edelman, who now teaches at SAR, played in November 2021. And there’s no doubt that Sopher’s participation will inspire more people to take on and conquer the “Jeopardy!” challenge.

Today, Sopher lives in New Orleans and works at a television station. And despite the volume and accessibility of information available today, he still thinks that a strong base of trivia knowledge can really help form connections with people. “Even if it’s something small about the country they’re from, like just the capital,” he said. “They still get really excited about that.” He hopes to expand his knowledge of the world, and continue making connections with the people around him.


Eitan Nissel from Monsey is a summer intern at The Jewish Link and looking forward to shana bet at the Gush next year.

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