Was Paul Bunyan Jewish? Probably Not, But This Year His Axe Is

Paul Bunyan’s Axe is one of the most recognizable trophies that the Minnesota Golden Gophers football team plays for. The trophy, which travels to the winner of the Gophers’ annual game against Wisconsin, is 6-feet long and has a blade which is painted maroon and gold on one side, and red and white on the other. The final scores of the team’s last 111 games are painted on the handle, giving it added historic value.

Unfortunately for the Gophers fans, the Axe has not traveled to their trophy case in some time. Wisconsin has won 42 of the 69 Battles for the Axe, including the last 13. While the Badgers will undoubtedly be favored again at this year’s big Thanksgiving weekend showdown, this year fans will have an opportunity to battle for an even more significant axe.

Today marks the first “Battle for the Hillel Tzedakah Axe,” an 8-day fundraising battle between Minnesota Hillel and UW-Madison Hillel, with the winning Hillel earning bragging rights and the Axe until next year’s game. Between Nov. 16-23, you can help drive your school to victory by posting photos from your undergraduate years with the hashtags #mnfortheaxe or #uwfortheaxe or by visiting the competition’s donation page. The winner will be announced before at and noon on Nov. 24, the day before the Gophers and Badgers square off at TCF Bank Stadium.

“We worked with [Minnesota alum] Zach Rosenzweig at Stratasys who [3-D] printed a 3-foot long, 25-pound axe replica, and [Minnesota alum] Keith Rosenbloom at Eco Finishing painted it for us,” said Minnesota Hillel Executive Director Benjie Kaplan. “We wanted to create a fun way to get alumni involved with giving back while showing their school spirit. For me, if it helps raise $5 or $500,000, it’s a start. Hopefully, the friendly competition will hit a cord, and alum will be just as passionate about the Tzedakah Axe as they are about the real thing.”

UW-Madison Hillel Executive Director Greg Steinberger is also excited to be part of this new twist on an old rivalry.

“In our play on the fabled story, Benjie and I hope to capture the attention of loyal alumni and fans from Gopher and Badger Nations and raise some gelt for a good cause,” he said. “It’s a storied tradition born today between colleagues and students to benefit Jewish Life on campus.”

While the football game is a very real thing that is important to friends and families whose allegiances may be split, the Tzedakah Axe is a fun way to make an impact and celebrate Jewish life at two great universities. Whether you Row the Boat or Jump Around, Ski-U-Mah or On Wisconsin, this is your chance to bring home the Axe!

“We all know how hard it is to thrive today, to find one’s community, to strengthen Jewish life,” Steinberger said. “So this is a fun way to bring some joy and celebration to our work to impact and transform Jewish student life for the better. This week we choose to have some fun and we hope people will choose to participate because they recognize how Hillel has impacted them and they care about the vital role our organizations play as centers for Jewish life on our college campuses.”