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Jewish school to give up shot at state championship to observe Sabbath
February 29th, 2012
03:50 PM ET

Jewish school to give up shot at state championship to observe Sabbath

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) - With a shot at high school state championship glory on the line, a Jewish basketball team in Texas is opting for the sidelines, aiming for something a little higher.

The Robert M. Beren Academy in Houston will forfeit its semifinal playoff spot in the Class 2A basketball championships this weekend because the game falls on a Friday night, the start of the Jewish Sabbath.

The private Orthodox Jewish school observes the weekly Jewish day of rest, called Shabbat, from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.

"You get put in adversity and the way you handle things says a lot about your character. So this is an opportunity to show our character," Chris Cole, coach of the Beren Stars, told CNN Houston affiliate KPRC.

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The playoffs for the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) are set for this weekend. Beren Academy's semifinal game and the championship game are both scheduled during the Sabbath observance.

"If we give up this opportunity for our religion it just shows how much we deeply care for it," Isaac Buchine, a player on the Beren Stars, told KPRC.

"We are hopeful that the TAPPS league will move the games a few hours so that we can compete," the school said in a statement posted on its website.

"This is a testament to our school and to Coach Cole for his support and dedication, that, independent of the desire to compete, is the desire to uphold our Jewish values,” the statement continued. “We are proud of who we are, and have the courage to act accordingly."

By Wednesday, more than 5,000 people had signed an online petition, supported by the school, to move the Beren Stars’ semifinal game to Friday morning.

Over the weekend, school officials appealed to the league to find another time for the game, but the league said in a statement Wednesday the appeal was unanimously voted down by the league's nine-member board.

Cole is holding out hope that the TAPPS board will change its mind and reschedule the Stars’ games.

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The Jewish observance of the Sabbath comes from the book of Genesis. In the week-long creation story, God creates the world, and all that is in it, in six days. After seeing that it is "very good," God rests on the seventh day.

How Jews practice that rest varies, but in Orthodox sects, it often means no working, driving or cooking. Many observant Jews also attend religious services on Shabbat.

Observance of the Sabbath can pose a challenge for observant Jews living in a culture on a different timetable.

Yuri Foreman , a champion boxer and rabbi in training, postponed a major fight in 2010 because it fell on a Saturday night. He took the ring once the sun went down.

U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, has been known to walk miles to his Washington home when votes on the Senate floor run into Friday night.

Lieberman wrote a book about Shabbat and told CNN's Belief Blog last year the stringent rules around the observation serve an important part in preservation of the Jewish faith.

Founded in the late 1970s, the TAPPS league is made up of 220 schools. In a statement posted on its website by the TAPPS executive board, the league said at the time of its organization, no member schools observed the Sabbath on Saturday. At the same time, the bylaws forbid games on Sunday, a nod to Christian Sabbath observance.

The league statement also said Beren Academy first met with league officials in June 2009 to discuss joining TAPPS.

"At that time, the Board pointed out that TAPPS schedules its team sports championship on Fridays and Saturdays, which would conflict with Beren’s observation of their Sabbath,” the statement said. “The Board pointed out that the posted schedule for the state tournament would be followed and no changes made, unless weather related or similar conditions existed."

The league also pointed out another rule in its bylaws stipulating that if a team cannot follow the playoff schedule, it is up to the school to remove itself from the playoffs.

Our Lady of the Hills School in Kerrville, Texas, will take Beren Academy's spot in the playoffs Friday night, the league said.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Judaism • Texas

soundoff (946 Responses)
  1. Laia

    As much as I love it, I have to say that the acoustic part at the very end TERRIFIES me. Every time I hear it, I get an image of an inlecdibry old and creepy man, eyes glinting as he rocks in a chair, staring directly at the camera as the scene pulls back to reveal him sitting inside the house from the Black Sabbath album cover.

    November 10, 2012 at 1:49 am |
  2. me

    so... these kids worked so damn hard to be good athletes... and they won't be allowed to show for it? hallo thar, discrimination!

    March 2, 2012 at 10:28 pm |
  3. Raju Charles

    Holy Sabbath! The Ten Commandments make it very clear the Seventh Day is the Sabbath of the Lord! Remember the Sabbath day,to keep it holy.
    Sabbath is a happy Day of the Lord!

    March 2, 2012 at 8:33 am |
  4. There is nothing new under the sun...

    "The Jewish observance of the Sabbath comes from the book of Genesis"
    Actually it comes from the Book of Exodous - the Ten Commandments has the order to" Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy". God's resting after 6 days of creation is not the reason we rest - his commandment is the reason. I don't spend my Tuesdays trying to create new grasses and trees.

    March 1, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
    • justme

      thank you for agreeing with my point from page 13. and i hope you get more accurate feedback than i did. it's nice to see someone actually knows the law.

      March 2, 2012 at 12:11 am |
  5. Chuck

    As is typical of CNN, this story is every one-sided. What do the board members of the league have to say? Yes, CNN quoted a few lines from league policy, but apparently nothing about this specific situation. I know, I know... that would mean doing a bit of investigation, making some phone calls, maybe even knocking on a few doors.

    March 1, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
  6. Richard Klein, Ph.D.

    The school is following the standard of Sandy Koufax who refused to pitch on the Jewish Holiday of Yom Kippur. I think that it is extremely commendable that the students and faculty of Beren Academy take such a principled position. It is a very "teachable" moment for the youngsters involved and for the general public. There are much more important issues than winning a basketball game.

    March 1, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • Observer

      Under threat of lawsuit (how typical) TAPPS has agreed to reschedule the game for this special group of young people.

      March 1, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • ImSoSpecial

      Then don't enlist the kids into tournaments that may conflict with their religion required obligations. These kids are going to be heartbroken when they find out all pro sports play on the sabbath and dont make exceptions. Its 2012 not 1946, the kids wont spontaniously combust if they play during the sabbath, grow up.

      March 1, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • GT

      Kids won't spontaneous combust if other kids say a voluntary pledge of allegiance in school, either...but that seems to get some attention from folks.

      March 2, 2012 at 12:43 am |
  7. netofunk

    It's hard because we are talking about kids who worked real hard and played real well. But, as a society, if we start making exceptions for every religions rituals, etc. – it could get real bad. My real question from a purely 'non-believer' point of view is "what kind of god would insist that silly rituals like these be observed"? I'm glad that god isn't real!

    March 1, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
  8. TAAPS PARENT

    Well, it looks like the parents of Beren's school filed a restraining order. The games have been rescheduled. The coach of the team didn't exactly back down and prove he's a man of conviction and forfeited anyway. Lesson learned-Sue their pants off. It's the American way.

    March 1, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • ImSoSpecial

      There you go, if you can't have your way, cry about it, then sue. Ultimately looking like a spoiled brat child.

      March 1, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
  9. Shawn

    Yes, I get that the school had the requirements laid out when they joined the league, but I would have thought that a group of religious private schools would have been more sensitive about this. Ironic that they stick with no Sunday games to support the (presumably) majority Christian schools, but with all the talk about Judeo-Christian heritage, they can't find a way to compromise for this team.

    March 1, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • Evelina

      I have recently setratd to try and make the call to prayer five times a day. At the moment I am not writing much, but feel these breaks would be a good chance to clear my mind and slow down a bit. Not a while Sabbath, but some similarities. Good luck to you.Paul recently posted..

      November 8, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.