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. Helene

    I think many here don't understand the full issue. In addition to the requirements to observe and honor the seventh day and keep it holy, Jewish halakhah (law) prohibits doing work on the Sabbath, which goes from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday (from Genesis, "And there was evening, and there was morning, the first day"). "Work" strictly refers to observance of not engaging in the 39 melachot - the activities that were involved in building the original tabernacle after the Israelites received and accepted the ten commandments and a covenant with God. I'm not an expert, but in this case, I think prohibited activities would include "kindling a flame" (driving to/from the event using an internal combustion engine), scorekeeping (writing or erasing more than 2 letters), and carrying beyond the bounds allowed (carrying gym bags, equipment into the venue, for example). To the best of my knowledge, Christians do not have similar "hard wired" restrictions, only that the Sabbath be observed as a day of rest and observance. Thus, Christians could, in theory play a game on the day they observe the Sabbath, as they are not prohibited from participating in specific activities required to get to or play the game. That they choose not to because it interferes with observance and reverence would be the primary issues, and should be respected.

    Thus, to say that the Jewish school "could play if it wanted to" is ridiculous. A Jew's first contract is with God, and I think the school is doing the right thing by sticking to its tenets of faith, and what it's trying to teach its students is admirable. That being said, I find the TAPPS decision disappointing at best, although the article does not really go into specifics of the reasoning, other than strict adherence to the by-laws. Considering that this is a league for private and PAROCHIAL schools, and a Jewish Day School is as much a parochial school as a Christian school of any denomination (or any other recognized organized religion, for that matter), it's a shame that TAPPS and other similar organizations not support a decision of faith as, at a minimum, an expression of tolerance. The time to address that, however, is a year in advance of the play-offs with a request to change the by-laws.

    BTW, my daughter's Conservative Jewish Day School team ran into a similar issue one year. We explained the situation to the children. While they were disappointed at not being able to play, they completely understood the situation – after all, we sent our kids to a religiously-oriented school for a reason. Life went on. No one was bitter, and a great lesson about faith, observance, and discipline was taught.

    March 1, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • BinyaminW


      March 1, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
    • ES

      Good post. Facts are facts.

      March 1, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • ImSoSpecial

      Well since a Jew's first contract is with God then the kids should understand that they'll never be able to play in the NCAA or the NBA or any pro sport for the fact of that matter since those organizations seem to play games on the sabbath. If your that devote to your faith then spend all your time and energy focusing on your faith, your equally as stubborn for not moving an inch. If you physically do something on the sabbath your soul does not get pulled down to hell, you don't lose your ability to be jewish, you wont be cast a derelict of society, grow up, let the kids play in thier basketball tournament, they won't all grow ill if they play saturday, its 2012 not the Middle Ages.

      March 1, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
  2. K3Citizen

    There's nothing noble about quitting a tournament you're not going to win.

    March 1, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • Jon in Balto.

      How do you know they weren't going to win? Do you have a fix in? They got to the semis – that says something. Your "logic" is missing a screw.

      March 1, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  3. John Q. P.

    Playing race card is simplistic. The issue is a fairly simple one that is made wildly complex by religion. Let's say the team suffered a tragedy and chose to forfeit the game (by their choice). Is TAPP being unfair and racist?

    March 1, 2012 at 12:01 pm |

      Race is different from Religion you idi0t.

      there are black jewish people, white, Asian and etc... as there are black Christians, white Christians, Asian christian and etc....


      March 1, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
  4. John from Houston

    Two comments here...First off, the kids from this school are taking this extremely well. Not trying to push their faith on anyone. Not complaining. Just taking it in stride.
    Now, as for the TAPPS folks...what may not be known to the national audience is that the Girls semifinals are being played Friday afternoon. And the Boys 4A final is being played at 6 PM Saturday (Beren is in 2A, which is scheduled for Saturday afternoon). I'm not sure when sundown is on Saturday, but TAPPS could most likely keep the same start times and just swap the games to avoid this issue for Beren. Worst case would be a one-hour delay to the final on Saturday.

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

      OR, they could just play the game as scheduled and give up their silly fairy tales.

      March 1, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • mike

      And then we hear about the Jewish girls school having to play during the sabbath.

      March 1, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • mike

      Oh, and if you swap the girls/boys on Friday, you have to do it again on Saturday. Otherwise, the winner on Friday night 6pm game (if it is the girls as you suggest), would have to play the following day on less than 24 hours rest. So, you end up switching the Saturday games as well, which puts the boys back at 2pm on Saturday, and we have the same issue, just a different day.

      March 1, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
  5. Cynthia Herzegovitch

    PJ what a common sense approach. The league by the wording of their statement shows much disrespect. Also, playing it earlier in the day is also a reasonable accommodation.

    " 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."

    This shows that now that they have accepted such members they should have known that this might happen – what about Seventh Day Adventists possibly in the future- that things and times change. There is a way – find it!!!.

    Either way BRAVO to the team, school and coach for Living their convictions.

    March 1, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • tx educator

      like! there are denominations of Christians who D O observe the correct day of the week as Sabbath. In addition to the logical fallacy used to deny accomodation of the times for their (and all Jew/Christian) beliefs, TAPP alienates Christians too. Sounds like a bunch of h-rd-$$es who are being that way just to be that way.

      March 1, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
  6. ClearAndPresentThinking

    How's this privatization of secondary schools working? Welcome to Tea Party America.

    March 1, 2012 at 11:54 am |
  7. Just Me

    @ maybe not...Could you point out exactly where I stated games were played Saturday NIGHTS? I belive the wording was: " Friday nights and Saturdays".

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

    March 1, 2012 at 11:54 am |
  8. hola!

    AMEN! so glad to see the Sabbath upheld! The Sabbath is all about our rest in Jesus as our creator (exodus 20:9-11) and redeemer (deut 5:12-15). we can never work for our salvation but only rest in the work he has done for us on the cross. the Sabbath was given to humanity as a memorial to being set free from our sins from the first week of creation b/c all people need salvation – not just a specific religion, nationality, race or country. it is not tradition, but the word of god and indeed a blessing to rest in him! jesus followed it, the early church followed it (even paul: Acts 17:1-4)and we will follow it in heaven worshipping god from one sabbath to another (isa 66: 15-23.

    March 1, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • jimtanker

      You do know that the sabath is on Saturday and not Sunday right? It was the early xtians that changed it to Sunday so that they could subvert pagan religions that worshiped on Sundays.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • tx educator

      @jimtanker, like! that is so true! if blind-folded Christians would wake up and question W H Y some things that they do and observe D O N' T go with the Bible, contradict it or don't make sense, they would see how much H I S T O R Y has impacted it. Orthodox Christianity, practiced in the Middle East, Europe and Americas seeks to get back to the early Christian church, as established by Jesus himself, before 313 AD when the first assault on Chrisitianity started under Constantine and Theodosius. the Edict of Milan/Tolerance started Christianity on a new path and events in history have further deluded, changed, interpreted or added to Christianity ever since. Christianity is a religion and, if you're going to claim any religion, sit down and read and see for yourself. Otherwise, you're practicing history's version of the religion and not the religious tenets itself.

      March 1, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
  9. Keeping it Honest

    FYI, No where in the New Testament does it show the day of rest – the Sabbath – being moved to Sunday.

    March 1, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  10. hello

    i feel like being a Jew in Texas would be a pretty big b itch to begin with.

    not to mention being a Jew trying to be taken seriously in a basketball league.

    March 1, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • BinyaminW

      Yeah try being the only Jewish kid in school in Texas for most of your life. You would be amazed at some of the idiotic questions I was constantly asked.

      March 1, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
  11. hello

    clever mascot

    March 1, 2012 at 11:43 am |
  12. Fred IV

    If you read the article, you'd see they've been trying to get a schedule accommodation since 2009, 3 years ago.

    Also, they're not complaining. They're just bowing out, taking it like grown ups, despite the clear prejudice.

    TAPP accommodates Christians by not playing on Sunday.

    TAPP can easily accommodate a once in a while scheulding issue by playing a game on Sunday, or Saturday night. They choose to be intolerant, unaccommodating, and I might say a wee bit antisemitic. But the Jewish kids are being very mature and upstanding about it, and shrugging it off.

    Pointing at the "contract" and saying, "you signed it" and "these are the rules" is pretty lame. They refused to make the accommodation to the "rules" 3 years ago. Any people who are saying that are simply trying to exclude the Jewish team, very specifically. Since when is the schedule of a basketball so set in stone?!?!

    Apparently, if there's rain, rescheduling is not difficult at all...

    March 1, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • 500V

      Ugh – you need to read.
      "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,”

      March 1, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • John Q. P.

      Much easier and more logical for an individual team to make a cocession than TAPP making changes for all teams needing or wanting special conditions. Why is a religous belief (of which there are a multiude of religions and associated beliefs) more important than TAPP's rules. If TAPP is infexlible, what would you say about religous dogma. Both orgs intentions are to teach and enrich lives.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:50 am |
  13. Brucy

    Yes, play the game on Saturday, but change the starting time to after sunset Saturday evening, 8:00 PM. Is that a problem???

    March 1, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • mike

      It is a playoff. What if round 2 is already scheduled for Saturday? And if it is a double-elimination tournament, the time and location for the 2nd game would vary, depending on if you won or lost in round one.

      you have never run a league at all have you

      March 1, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
  14. MontanaSherryC

    Let them know about your disappointment in their decision in time to change the schedule for Friday's games:

    TAPPS = Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools

    Phone (254) 947-9268

    Fax (254) 947-9368

    E-Mail edd@tapps.net

    If the schedule is not changed and Beren doesn't get to play, write them a little note expressing how you feel.

    601 Main St.
    Salado, TX 76571

    March 1, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • cb

      You can write something like:
      good job for sticking by your convictions. He told them at the beginning there would be no changes. And now that they got a chance to play in the semi finals all the bleeding hearts are coming out trying to change your mind. Like I said good job for sticking by what you said.

      March 1, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • english300sflynda

      And if the schedule IS changed and they DO get to play, write them a note telling them you're glad they did. (Thanks for posting the contact info!)

      March 1, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
  15. Noah

    I am blessed that they are standing up for what they believe in many today don't. Our example in life is our testimony to others. I would like to give a thought to all those that are believers and following a Sabbath from Sunset to Sunset;
    WHEN DOES THE DAY BEGIN? Scripture reckons the beginning of the day at dawn, the starting of the light in the sky and ends just before the light appears for the next day to begin. To validate this study, do a word study on “Morrow,” this will confirm this statement. You can also go to the Resurrection in John where it says, “It was still dark, nearing the first day of the week while it was yet dark.” Noah and the Household of Faith.

    March 1, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • Lisa

      Noah, you are quoting a translation... not original hebrew.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:55 am |
  16. rharrisphd

    Wrong headline. It should read: "Basketball league refuses to accommodate Jewish sabbath, even though they respect the Christian sabbath."

    March 1, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • ImSoSpecial

      IF the league is proving to strain your beliefs, DONT JOIN THE LEAGUE! Or start your own Jewish League that only plays on sundays, problem solved, and your still most important. Sadly the kids are the ones stuck not being able to play because there parents feel they need to wear their religion on their sleeve to let the world know their right and your wrong.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • Josh

      No surprise ImSoSpecial's response is riddle with grammatical errors. Also might be the most anti-semetic, ignorant, ridiculous thing I've read or heard in years.

      But he or she would probably say the same thing about Sandy Koufax.

      Who's Sandy Koufax???? Yeah, exactly.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • c

      That is not always true, I have three soccer players and games have been scheduled many times on Sunday as well as other Holy days.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • Josh


      March 1, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • ImSoSpecial

      nice correction you dunce.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • K3Citizen

      What if 5 different religions needed the other 5 days for their sabbath? No one would get to play. The teams that start the season should know they may play on God's day off so they should play in a Jewish state tournament.

      March 1, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
  17. snowdogg

    "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."

    A bit of a hypocritical bias at work deep in the "heart" of Texas.

    March 1, 2012 at 11:27 am |

      Except that the late, championship game on Saturday would force those who worship on Sunday would be forced to travel that day. Reverse discrmination in the heart of Texas as a result.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • Lisa

      TAPPS Parent,

      Christians are allowed to travel on the Sunday and they could visit a local church if they are still at the tournament site. However, Orthodox Jews cannot travel by vehicle during the Sabbath.

      Not remotely the same.

      The game could be Friday before sunset. It could be Thursday or Monday night.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:58 am |

      There are two games. One on Friday and one on Saturday. Yes, Christians can travel on Sunday, if they choose. But, did you consider that some Christian folks are just as committed to being in their home congregations, as often as possible, as a matter of conscience and their personal faith? It's definitely a tough situation, and I do commend the school officials for standing by their beliefs. Not all of the decision was based on religion, either. There are issues of safety as TAAPS still has to consider all the teams and family members who travel from the neutral site, late at night,

      March 1, 2012 at 12:19 pm |

      Change the by-laws between now and next season, if that's what folks want. But, don't wait intil the week before the game, when schedules are set and expect results. Let dialogue begin. Having met serveral of them, including coaches and staff, I seriously doubt there would be a problem if the member school representatives can sit down discuss the matter in a timely manner. Most are respectful of the value systems of the other schools.

      March 1, 2012 at 12:27 pm |

      And for the record, at least, two schools involved in the playoff were willing to change the game time.

      March 1, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
  18. PJ LaPorte

    Don't change the bylaws, just file an amendment that says a championship game may be played on Friday before sundown or on Saturday after sundown if a competing team has a religious conflict. No need for a forfeit or for others to "show their teeth".

    March 1, 2012 at 11:25 am |
    • mike

      Right, because facilities are just sitting empty 24 hours a day, waiting for a game. The facility most likely has other games that day. Any changes have significant ripple effects, especially in a tournament situation.

      March 1, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
  19. ocd

    they're boys. it's not a contract to buy 747's.

    March 1, 2012 at 11:25 am |
  20. paul 1st

    We should all admire the sacrifice made by the team and the school where they both live by their convictions and live within the rules of the secular groups in which they participate. There is no whining or attempts to change the rules to accommodate their beliefs or to impose their beliefs on others.

    March 1, 2012 at 11:25 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.