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)

    Both the games on Friday and Saturday would have to be changed should the team win on Friday. While I understand the concern on both sides of the story, the school officials knew the rules. It seems our society is fraught with people wanting exceptions to firm rules. What lesson does that teach our young people? You can enter into a contact, but expect to ask for exceptions for your beliefs or expectations. Shame on the school officials for getting the boys' hopes up despite the fact that they knew the rules. On the other hand, they are private schools. Other than that, it is a major inconvenience to the parents and families who would travel the long distances to watch a late game and have to return late at night. It's more than beliefs involved, here. It's also about the safety of the folks who travel-sometimes up to 6 hours after the games.

    March 1, 2012 at 11:24 am |
  2. Mike

    Ugh. Tradition! Tradition. Tradition! I am sick of the old ways. And I want more salt on my food!!!! Tradition hampers progress in many ways.

    March 1, 2012 at 11:20 am |
  3. whats a day?

    "the jewish sabbath?" i know this may take it in another direction, but as a christian when and by whom did the sabbath become just a jewish day of rest? i believe the good book says it was made for man...not just jewish men (was adam jewish?). i could be wrong, but i think you guys could have spun it in a different direction. and for the record, most people who observe the sabbath are very aware of how they observe it and the things that may be done on and in preparation for it. so instead of this being looked at like they are complaining...look at it as they are standing up for their faith. most modern day ppl who choose to honor sunday, don't even do that...but yet they call it the sabbath...lol something about "remembering it to keep it holy.." and "...resting, and keeping it holy" (2x)...many things that this might teach, but was i ordained or called to preach? 😉 have a blessed day everyone....

    March 1, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • Naija

      Same reason they Photoshop Hillary Clinton off White house photo of Osama's death, They also believe women are not suppose to be seen in position of power.We should observe that too while we are it.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • snowdogg

      Do YOU know what you're trying to say in your post? Can you 'splain it better? Oh, never mind!

      March 1, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • PinkStapler

      @Naija... This is a misconception. They erased her from the photo for the sake of modesty. In the stricter communities it’s immodest for them to show pictures of women on the internet, in papers, etc. and especially amongst men– NOT because she's in a position of power.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • whats a day?

      @snowdog what would you like for me to 'splain? and yes i am very aware of what i said in my post. 3 things, 1. its spun wrong. 2. the implication that saturday is the jewish sabbath is in total ignorance of history and christianity, 3. props to the kids and the school for standing up for the sabbath.

      now what were you trying to say?

      March 1, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • whats a day?

      @snodogg...correction to number 2...*the implication that saturday is JUST the jewish sabbath. my humble apologies if any of this is confusing.

      March 1, 2012 at 12:08 pm |


    March 1, 2012 at 11:16 am |
  5. TR

    Does TAPPS receive any State funding? If it receives even a dime, then this religious discrimination is illegal. So, observance of the Christian Sabbath only is acceptable? Thought Christians were more respectful of other religions....

    March 1, 2012 at 11:16 am |
  6. BEM684

    There's nothing wrong with ASKING the league to reschedule. The fact that they have a contract in place does not mean that the school has no right to ask this. The league is free to say no.

    As a parallel, signing a lease with your landlord does not make it wrong to ask for a different parking spot than the one you were assigned....it just gives him a legal basis to deny you.

    Both are contracts and both are changeable if the parties agree.

    March 1, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • Naija

      Except in this case you know the schedule before signing on,if the team are not doing great this won't even have been an issue,they would have gladly forfeit the game.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • BEM684

      What difference does it make that they knew beforehand? All that means is that the league has a right to say no. The team still has a right to ask. Naiji, take a deep breath and think before you type. Your hate isn't warranted.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • Just Say'in

      @ BEM684
      It makes all the difference. Just ask your mortgage company.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • BEM684


      Go ahead and ask your mortgage company to forgive the debt. You will not be breaching your contract if you ask, as long as you keep paying when they say no. This Jewish school asked for an accommodation, was denied, and has not violated their agreement at all.

      March 1, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
  7. Kevininvancouver

    I just don't think it would be that big a deal to move the game ahead a couple hours.

    March 1, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • Billy

      Please google the term "slippery slope"

      March 1, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • @Billy

      I did, and the first result talks all about the term's misuse, as you have done.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:46 am |
  8. tx educator

    "nod to Sunday, the Christian Sabbath"? W T F ?! where in the entire Bible does it ever change the Sabbath from the 7th day of the week to the 1st? I T D O E S N'T! If Christians are to abide by the 10 Commandments, they are commanded to rest on the 7th day; not the 1st. The 1st day of the week, Sunday, is mentioned 7 times in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) as the "Lord's day" and O N L Y in the Gospels (no where else in the Bible), as the day of meeting in service to the Lord and, at that time, that meant Jesus. Christians are S T I L L commanded to rest on Shabbat, whether or not they attend "meeting services" on Sunday, which I S N' T a commandment at all. So, please get your facts straight, CNN. Otherwise, you're as erroneous as the rest of the people who "claim" to be Christian but have no idea what that means, what the history is, what the rules are and what is expected of them.

    March 1, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • Jake

      What does any of that have to do with the scheduling of basketball games? Everyone has the right to observe whatever they want. If I decide I can't play games on Thursdays, do you think they'd reschedule games for me? Of course not. Believe what you want, but don't expect the world to adjust to your views.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • tx educator

      no one's asking anyone to adjust to their "views". being open to allow others to practice as they choose is F R E E D O M; not restriction....as in "adjusting others' views". We could all use a little more freedom and respect. Think logically, man. My post was about the inaccurate facts that CNN, and the larger Christian community, have about Sabbath. Be what you want....but be what you say you are and don't claim to be something and then be furtherest thing from what you claim to be. Hypocrisy and fake.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:15 am |
  9. Brenda

    Probably the more relevant question – why did this group of religion affiliated schools not respect the Sabbath of the Robert M Beren Academy to begin with? Why the hard and fast line about playing on certain days when their own Sunday Sabbath was being respected. None of these people of faith saw the lack of respect for another religion's Sabbath to be a problem? How hard would it have been to be respectful from the beginning? It sounds like they're basically putting a sign on the front door that says only Christians allowed in TAPPS if they won't consider another religion's observances. Stating that their bylaws were created in 1970 when they only had members who celebrated Sabbath on Sunday is no excuse for not changing it when their members' beliefs had changed.

    March 1, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • Jake

      You are right. They should ignore any religious considerations for any team. If people choose to make sacrifices to follow a religion, that's there choice. But a school system has no right to make special considerations for them, Christian, Jewish or anything else.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:09 am |
    • Naija

      If you know an establishments serves pork on Saturday and it clearly states so,why go there on Saturday and ask them to change the menu because of you.Same thing happen in Washington DC,even though there is absentee ballot,Jewish people want the District of Columbia to change voting day because it fall on Saturday.Trust me,contrary to your belief,you are not special.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:13 am |
  10. Eric

    Mazel Tov!

    March 1, 2012 at 11:02 am |
  11. soccer Mom

    True, that the league does not HAVE to change the time of the game. But, wouldn't it be nice if they did ? WOuldn't it demonstrate tolerance and resoect to all the kids in the leage ? Can it really be that difficult ?

    March 1, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • Jake

      No, of course they shouldn't change it anymore than they should change it if there was a Christian team that refused to play on a Sunday. This is a public school system – they should be 100% blind to religious considerations (of course, we have a long way to go until that's the case).

      March 1, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • AP

      It's not a public school. Reread the article

      March 1, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • sbp

      Uh, no Jake, it's NOT a public school system, it's a parochial school system, so they routinely make allowances for religion.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:35 am |
  12. Joe

    I am not convinced that it is against Halaka (Jewish Law) to play basketball on Shabbat

    March 1, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • momo

      o come on, dont you know that observing the sabbath means a day of rest, no driving, no doing anything electic, cant shower. so how are they supposed to get to their game. ...??? also do u really think its in the spirit of the sabbath to play a league game. its amazing to see that people actually have their morals stright.. good job team.... aka you know knothing about halacha so please dont pretend you do

      March 1, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • Dylan

      It is very much against the work prohibitions, as it involves carrying an object several hundred feet, not to mention the stenuous physical activity itself (exercise on Shabbos is also prohibited for this reason).

      March 1, 2012 at 11:18 am |
  13. Helena

    Imagine the reverse situation: TAPPS is Tel-Aviv Association for Private and Parochial Schools...games are routinely scheduled for Sundays (yom rishon, work day in Israel). A Christian team made it to semi-finals and is unable to play on Sunday for religious reasons. Does anyone in the world doubt that the team will be accommodated?

    March 1, 2012 at 11:00 am |
  14. cantilever

    My religion forbids me to weasel out of a contract, to make a fetish of a calendar day, and to impose my religion on others. Sorry, folks.

    March 1, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • Just Say'in


      March 1, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • BEM684

      Yes I'm sure that by asking the league to schedule the game several hours earlier, their intention MUST have been to impose their religion on everyone! idiot

      March 1, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • Just Say'in

      Apparently satire is lost on BEM684.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:16 am |
  15. Larry H

    Saturday is Shomer Shabbos, the Jewish day of rest. I don't drive a car. I don't f$cking ride in a car. I don't pay any money. I don't turn on the oven and I SURE AS SH!T DON'T F$CKING ROLL ON SHABBOS!

    March 1, 2012 at 10:52 am |
  16. MarcB

    Dear lord; This has nothing to do with religion, or even the fact that the league doesn't play on Sundays:

    A contract is a contract is a contract. When this Jewish school signed up, they *knew* games were played Monday to Saturday. They *knew* exceptions would be made only for weather or other extreme events.

    Why is this even being portrayed as controversial ? Do you complain when your mortgage is due and you have no money in the bank ? No: You have a contract. Do you complain when you have to show up at work from 9-5, five days a week ? No, you have a contract.

    The Jewish school AGREED to this – Now, suddenly when the terms they AGREED to are inconvenient, they get to complain ?

    Get real.

    March 1, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • Just Say'in

      I completely agree have posted comments to that fact. Somehow stating such is ‘taking god’ away from others.


      March 1, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • LaurenL

      I think that you are being a little harsh here. Excuse my phrase, but there is no way in hell one of these playoff games would be on a Sunday. Why not? Because it is the Lord's day. I think that it is easy for someone in the majority to say that this team should have looked at the schedule; but for a second, take a walk in their shoes. I think that these comments seem extremely ignorant to the cultural differences we have in our country today. If this team deserves to be in the tournament, then let them in.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • Maybe not

      I agree about the 'contract', but they aren't 'complaining.' The public is more in an uproar than the team is. The team and coach, and Rabbi have made it clear "If you can accomdate us (as you've accomadated other Christian schools by not playing on Sunday), then great, if not, there is a higher purpose and we are ok with it." The games are not "Friday night-Saturday night"...the truth of the matter is, TAPPS could put in a bit of effort and shift some of the schools around so that Beren could play during the day. Instead, they deem a schools merit and qualifications not important enough to do so...."regulations" are not written in stone....an addendum/amendment can be passed. duh. It's called progression.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • Just Say'in

      @ LaurenL
      As an Atheist I am in no way in the majority.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:19 am |
  17. Naija

    It's only a game,I am sure they go to the park and throw something around for fun.Just play ball and try not to bet on it for money,problem solved,I am sure the kids don't give a rats Azz what day it's,Just adult being party poppers as usual.

    March 1, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • bul

      naija. those kids are orthodox jews. they arent spending there time throwing a ball around on the sabbath. orthodox jews spend most of the day on saturdays in temple praying. even the kids.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • Matrix

      bul, Orthodox kids don't got to temple. Orthodox Jewish places of worship are not 'temples'. There's only one Temple, though it does not stand anymore. They go to synagogue or shul, not temple.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:31 am |
  18. revolting peasant

    Interesting story. I guess if the league stated up front that it would not accomodate schedule changes, then you can't really blame them to sticking to their rules. Then again, we find the greatest level of religious intolerance among relgious people, so I'm sure that there is an element of F-You going oin.

    March 1, 2012 at 10:50 am |
  19. toronto girl

    how is this even news?? BTW I'm jewish, and if this is a relligious league of all faiths, why are the Sabbath days of all not respected??

    March 1, 2012 at 10:48 am |
    • Naija

      Same reason Friday is not off day for Muslims

      March 1, 2012 at 10:56 am |
  20. Just Me

    Don't care if you are Christian, Jewish, or Athiest. For the record, I am Jewish. Bottom line, they were told BEFORE they joined the league that championships would be held on Friday nights and Saturdays, and that the schedule was not going to be changed for them. They agreed to join the league anyway. While I applaud them honoring thier beliefs, asking for accomodations AFTER the fact doesn't set well. They knew what could happen going in. They made thier choice, and now should stop whining.

    March 1, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • EatRunDive

      Would you point out where in the article this "whining" occurs?

      1) TAPPS altered a scheduled soccer game last year to accomodate Seventh Day Adventists who observe the same Sabbath timetable.
      2) Their opponents, Dallas Covenant, could have approved of the time change but opted not to.

      March 1, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • Just Say'in


      March 1, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • bul

      sounds like they are discriminating against jews. no matter what the contract says it is discrimination.if playing is banned on sundays due to the christian sabbath then jews should be given equal rights. even if the contract says the schedule wont be changed they may be violating federal discrimination laws given the fact that they allow for observance of the christian sabbath.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • Maybe not

      you need to read more carefully. No where in the article does it say the contract specifically states Friday and Saturday nights, just Friday and Saturday.

      AND For your information, Shabbot starts at sundown Friday ngiht and ends sundown Saturday, (they can play saturday nights) Just so happens both their games fall on Friday after sundown and Saturday afternoon.

      ...just FYI...don't want ya lookin dumb or anything

      March 1, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • Just Say'in

      A day is a 24 hour period that includes days and night.

      ...just FYI...don't want ya lookin dumb or anything

      March 1, 2012 at 11:22 am |
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About this blog

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.