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Monday, February 27, 2012

Orthodox Jewish basketball team refuses to play on Sabbath,

An Orthodox Jewish school is out of the playoffs after the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools refused to move the time of its semifinal playoff game, as first reported by Jenny Dial of the Houston Chronicle.

Beren Academy (Houston) was scheduled to take on Covenant (Dallas) in the semifinals of the TAPPS Class 2A boys basketball playoff bracket. However, the game was scheduled for 9 p.m. Friday, which conflicts with Jewish observation of the Sabbath, or Shabbat, which typically includes services at a synagogue and a Shabbat dinner.

In order to be within the parameters of Jewish law, Beren Academy would have to play the game before sunset on Friday or after Sunset on Saturday. According to the Houston Chronicle, TAPPS refused to accommodate Beren Academy and is unwilling to change the time of the game. TAPPS has already removed Beren Academy from its playoff bracket, and it appears that Beren Academy will register a forfeit.

As a result, Convenant will face the winner of Abilene Christian and Logos Prep Academy (Sugar Land), who square off at Friday at 7:30 p.m.

"We're disappointed," Beren coach Chris Cole told MaxPreps. "I think we were hopeful that we could be able to have the game time changed. We have known that this is a possibility. I think the boys just want to play, but if given the choice to play or not observe the Sabbath, obviously their religious choice is going to be first. They understand that.

"The overall feeling is not so much anger, but disappointment."Cole said that the program was hopeful the game would be changed based on a soccer playoff that was changed in the last two or three seasons, involving Arlington Burton. A phone message and email to TAPPS executive director Edd Burleson were not immediately returned.

"They were able to get TAPPS' support to change the semifinals and finals, so based off that, that's what we were hoping for," Cole said. "When we joined TAPPS, we were told this was a possibility, and we acknowledged that. But with that precedent being set, we thought they might do the same." Asked if Beren considered playing anyway, Cole said: "Not at all."I will say this: Being in TAPPS has been a lot of fun for our boys. The schools that we've encountered along the way have been great.

The schools themselves have been wonderful. We've enjoyed competing in TAPPS."Harry Sinoff, head of Beren Academy, said it came down to the sacred versus the secular."The school is a modern Orthodox Jewish Day School. We want our kids to be excellent in secular pursuits," Sinoff told MaxPreps. "But when secular pursuits come up against sacred mission, sacred pursuits win against secular pursuits. The sacred pursuits are over 2000 years old. They are who we are."

TAPPS, a member of the National Federation of High Schools, is home to most non-public schools in Texas, since the UIL, the state's governing body for high school athletics, has not allowed most private schools to enter. After a long legal battle, Dallas Jesuit and Strake Jesuit (Houston) were allowed entry into the UIL in 2003, becoming the first and only non-public schools to become a part of the UIL.

Beren Academy's situation is not unprecedented.

In the spring of 2010, Northwest Yeshiva (Mercer Island, Wash.), an Orthodox Jewish school of about 60 students, sought to move the time of its postseason game to avoid having to play during a time when the Jewish calendar calls for a day of fasting from eating and drinking.

Washington's state governing body, the WIAA, refused to reschedule the game. As a result, Northwest Yeshiva showed up for the game in uniform, shook hands with its opponent, and then accepted a forfeit.

A Rabbi involved with the school told the Seattle Times that the school understood the WIAA's position, and that the school needed to stick to its beliefs.

"If we're loyal to our values only in the confines of our school or our private home, then we've taken the whole meaning away from them," Rabbi Bernie Fox said at the time.

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