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. momoya

    Religion doesn't trump contract. Play by the rules of the league you join or get out of it.

    February 29, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • bns

      You my peon friend probably have little if any principle

      March 1, 2012 at 12:39 am |
  2. Al

    Can we move the general election to Sunday?

    February 29, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
    • lala

      No, we couldn't and it can't be move on Sunday. That's how powerful religion is. God is on its side.

      February 29, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
  3. LuvUamerica

    I wonder if they think about what impact it will have on the other teams and players. If it is ok with everybody, then it should be ok.

    Putting aside their faith, which I respect, this team should be banned for 1 full year for skipping this game. team sport is about sacrifice and working as a group regardless of what each individuals faith is. Some of these teams may have Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Hindu's, Bhuddists, and of course Sikh's. The Sikh religion requires them to carry a 3 foot sword. I wonder if the league will allow the Sikh's to bring along their 3 foot long sword.

    Ban this team from the league!! Very unsportsman conduct!

    February 29, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • BR

      You said: "Putting aside their faith, which I respect, this team should be banned for 1 full year for skipping this game." You've got to be kidding. You do NOT respect faith.

      March 1, 2012 at 10:17 am |
  4. TT

    I think the board is being ridiculous by not accommodating but at the rule is the rule. The team should have looked at the schedule and made an appeal weeks in advance. Sad situation overall.

    February 29, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
  5. Annie Ann

    I applaud their willingness to stand up for what they believe in and what is written in Genesis! And I bet their God is proud of them too!

    February 29, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
    • JJ

      What exactly do you mean by "their" god? Are you acknowledging all gods invented by human or all by one?

      February 29, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
  6. bob

    I noticed no games are played on Sunday.. Resschedule the game for Friday morning and learn the meaning of tolerance..Where is Rick Santorium when you need him.. This is an assault on religious freedom.

    February 29, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
    • bob

      PS.. Jesus followed the Sabbath and would not have played BB on Friday nite.. Follow Jesus!!

      February 29, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • LuvUamerica

      Tolerance is one thing. But when do you draw the line. Religion should be kept out of all this. Some religion requires individuals to carry swords. Just imagine all the things you have to do. Let's accomodate everybody, and see if the league can even play a single game. What if an individual has to fast.

      They should have thought about all this before participating in team sports. They knew this was coming, and obviously decided to ignore it. Schedules are posted in advance, and they deserve to be benched.

      February 29, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • Joel Kessler

      But religion is already a part of this. If you read the statement issued by TAPPS, they do not play on Sunday because they consider this to be the Sabbath. However, this organization is not a Christian league per se. They are a league of private schools that do not have to be Christian. However, by refusing to recognize anyone else's Sabbath, they are inherently discriminatory, effectively saying that the only ones welcome in their league are good Christian schools with good Christian students.

      February 29, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
    • David

      the playoffs were not on Sundays. the season had 30% of its games on Sundays including Sunday MORNINGS.

      February 29, 2012 at 9:57 pm |
    • BR

      I appreciate your words on learning tolerance. However, I don't think Santorum is concerned about religion other than his own Catholic religion being able to step forward as the answer to what ails the U.S.A.

      March 1, 2012 at 10:20 am |
  7. Joe

    Can I leave work early becuase I believe the Tooth Fairy is watching me and wants me to go home? They can follow whatever weird beliefs they want but the game should go n as planned

    February 29, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • VanHagar

      So you'd have no problem working on Christmas then?

      February 29, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • Joe

      VanHagar – I often have so your point is what?

      February 29, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
  8. Midgick

    I remember Sandy Kofax (Dogers)not playing in a World Series.. He was one of the best pitches in Baseball. Think he was worried about being creamed
    JIM, YOU'RE AN ARROGANT JERK. AND HAVE NO SET OF MORALS WHICH YOU LIVE BY. I admire this man/team for living a truthfull life.

    February 29, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • Reply link

      Hi, Midgick. You must be a friend of Mark's. You should try using me. I'm great for organizing comments!

      February 29, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • craig

      There faithfulness will be rewarded

      February 29, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
  9. Ahmed

    The league should do everything possible to accommodate them, it is not too much to ask. If there are other games taking place in the morning, switching slots is a simple solution. In a multi-faith society, we need to be as tolerant and accommodating of other faiths as possible, that is a lesson far more valuable than just some basketball games based on a schedule that is set in stone.

    February 29, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • Midgick

      right on Ahmed

      February 29, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • Tucson Attorney

      I agree. And that applies to all faiths not just Judaism and Christianity.

      February 29, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
  10. Richxx

    This school knew the rules before they joined the league. There are Muslins who have there day, Christians who would not only not play on Sunday but wouldn't want to miss their Wednesday evening bible study. As David said so eloquently, those of all religions that refuse to do certain things on certain days are very small. The majority shouldn't have to make exception for them. They have their religious freedom, we are not forcing them to play basketball on their holy day, it is their choice.

    February 29, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
    • Midgick


      February 29, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
    • GirlDetective

      Do you really think the Muslins would care? They're only unbleached gotten garments, after all.

      February 29, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
    • LuvUamerica

      Rich, you are absolutely right. The Sikh religion (not Islam!!) requires men to carry swords at all times. Just imagine if they demand their relgious rights to be observed?

      February 29, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
  11. JJ

    "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." LOL! This says the team is a gaggle of delusional putzes. I mean, did you notice the picture? Black dress socks to the basketball practice? LMAO!

    February 29, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
    • gail

      You are a racist!

      February 29, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
  12. Nancy

    If you observe one religion's Sabbath, you should observe all–otherwise that is discriminatory. Whether they agreed with the policy when they joined in 2009 or not...the reality is TAPPs is saying it's okay if we don't play on Sunday because it would violate a Christian belief (the Sabbath) but we're going to play on other religion's holy days. And to answer the point above about it 'being a game' and not work, observant Jews go to temple on the Sabbath. They don't use cars (or buses to get to the games!), etc.–there are many observances you do, especially is you are Orthodox. the other person who commented on why this school would join a christian league is they are a private, not public school–it may have been the best or most appropriate place for them to join....it's a parochial organization. Maybe they also felt they would be sympathetic to other beliefs.....apparently not!

    February 29, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
  13. Mark

    @Jim in Washington
    Actually Jim, they already beat the opponent earlier in the season and were favored to win again. So please do a little research before you type.

    February 29, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
    • Reply link

      Hi, Mark. You should try using me. I'm great for organizing comments!

      February 29, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
    • Jim in Washington

      In that case, they are grateful for the excuse to quit while they are ahead.

      February 29, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
  14. Michael

    The team asked for a reschedule, and the TAPPS board denied it. There may be other logistics issues involved (other team not available, maybe?). Either way, it didn't hurt to ask for a reschedule. It's over. Hats off to the team for standing for "first things first". The TAPPS rules may not be written in stone, but the Sabbath law is.

    February 29, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
    • CB2

      Actually, I read in another article that the other school was willing to accomodate the schedule switch.

      February 29, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
  15. metalmat

    Sabbath is playing in Texas? Hell ya, I'm taking the day off to go observe them too!

    February 29, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
  16. Michael Klein

    I'm disappointed in the TAPPS board. I think they are being too inflexible. Unless it involves a large loss of money or similar hardship, why not be accommodating? Too bad. On the other hand, the Beren Academy gets a hardy congratulations on this kiddush Hashem (sanctification of G-d's name) that they have accomplished. Winning basketball championships is nice but it's not the reason for existence. Learning Torah is! And it seems that the Beren Academy is learning well. All power to them!

    February 29, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
    • Midgick

      People here say they follow the Judeo Christian laws. The "THEY part don't get and never will

      February 29, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
    • David Johnson


      February 29, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • Peace2All


      February 29, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • Jimtanker


      February 29, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
  17. Jeremy

    When the Brigham Young, what was it basketball team I think? Had to do this same thing a couple years ago, I don't recall a whole lot of people screaming "religious persecution!!"

    February 29, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
    • bns

      that is because we are Jews doing it and thereby those who have hatred and persecuted us for centuries, can feel brave enough to speak out with anti-semetic banner waving...I mean, really? Have you people no darn shame?? Let these children hold fast to the beliefs that built this world and how dare anyone on earth [or this blog] second guess or judge anyone who has the courage of their conviction? Well done, team and I applaud you.

      March 1, 2012 at 12:43 am |
  18. Jim in Washington

    My guess is that they expect to get creamed and they are so gracious because they have a face saving way out.

    February 29, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
    • Jennifer C

      Jim: when I post a comment, I take the time to do some research so I don't look like a fool. The Robert M. Beren Academy basketball team had a 23-5 record this year, and were scheduled to play Dallas Covenant Christian on Friday. They were not expected to get creamed. It should surprise no one that Dallas Covenant did not do the noble thing and support The Beren Academy's attempts to move the time of the game. This is the same school which allowed their 2009 girl's basketball team to defeat their opponent 100-0.

      February 29, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
  19. David

    the issue comes down to whether you also make allowance for many Muslims not playing sports on Fridays as well as some Christians not playing on Sundays. The fact is polls show well over 95% of American Jews do not absorb Sabbath prohibitions and are highly secular.

    So this isn't about Judaism which makes up 3.2% of the population, but about about especially small numbers of orthodox groups within Judaism or any religious group . America is very tolerant, but you cant have situations where especially orthodox people of any religion can expect society to bend to them.

    February 29, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • Ivan Bial

      David, you got your statistics from where?
      Move the games to Sunday

      February 29, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
    • Just a Jew at Christmas

      David the games should be moved to Sunday because the Christians have already made this a day when many other places are closed. Perfect solution for everyone.

      February 29, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
    • Susan

      Actually, Jews are about 2% or less of the US population, and the school is an Orthodox school, where 100% of the students are expected to observe shabbat.

      February 29, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
    • David

      Ivan, the League played 30% of its games on Sundays. see the leagues own site.
      Susan. according to the cencus 3.4% of Americans are Jewish, not 2%. According to Jewcy dot com, citing academic studies, less than 5% of Jews observe the sabbath by not Engaging in sports activities

      February 29, 2012 at 10:00 pm |
  20. reader 2010

    Here we go again.He or she has a excuse and nothing gets done.

    February 29, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
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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.