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April 17, 2014 | 17th Nisan 5774

URJ Encourages Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools to Reconsider Decision about Playoff Games on Shabbat

Rabbi Jacobs: "Asking the Beren Academy team to choose between observing their faith and participating in a game which they have rightfully qualified for sends the message that TAPPS values the religious convictions of Beren Academy less than other member schools."

February 29, 2012, New York - The Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS)  recently denied the Robert M. Beren Academy of Houston's request to reschedule semi-final basketball playoff game start times, which conflict with the Jewish Sabbath. In response, the URJ's Rabbi Rick Jacobs sent TAPPS the following letter:

"On behalf of the more than 900 congregations of the Union for Reform Judaism and 1.5 million Reform Jews across North America, I write to strongly encourage the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) to allow the Robert M. Beren Academy, an Orthodox Jewish school located in Houston, to compete in the semi-finals of the statewide boys' basketball tournament for private and parochial schools.

As you are well aware, the accomplishment of winning their regional game gives the Beren Academy basketball team the right to compete in the semi-finals, which are currently scheduled for Friday, March 2 and Saturday, March 3.  These games are to be played during the Jewish Sabbath, one of the holiest days of the Jewish calendar. 

The TAPPS Athletic Regulations concerning playoffs states that the date and time of regional, semi-final and final games can be changed only by the action of the TAPPS Executive Board.  Asking the Beren Academy team to choose between observing their faith and participating in a game which they have rightfully qualified for sends the message that TAPPS values the religious convictions of Beren Academy less than other member schools.

Mr. Burleson, I hope you understand the principle at stake here.  What message would be sent to these scholar/athletes if they were forced to choose between their faith and their athletic goals?  And what a powerful message TAPPS could send by finding an accommodation which would allow Beren to compete.  Only the later choice would be true to our shared American heritage of religious freedom.

Allowing Beren to compete would be a slam dunk."  

Comments

Karen Knox

February 29, 2012
04:35 PM

Alternatives to Friday and Saturday sporting events?

I agree with sentiment of not putting people, especially our kids, in a position to choose between faith and well-earned secular events. Since most American schools hold sporting events during Shabbat, this particular article seems to infer that this is an isolated event. It is not. Were the Academy's games leading up to their semi-final played strictly during the week?
This is not about being Jewish, rather respect for religion of others. If we are committed as a country to ensure everyone can observe their holy days, including their Sabbath, then no sporting events should be held on weekends at all at a minimum. This is a large undertaking. America should embrace and be proud of the rich faiths and traditions of all its people rather than secularize everyone. I think this article speaks to the fear of secularizing our Jewish future. A perfectly valid concern. In order to look ahead and ensure a rich Jewish future in America, could we decide what we think is reasonable to request of the many with whom we share this great nation? Then, perhaps we could accept moments of acquiescing to non-Jewish practice while others accept our Jewish customs on other occasions. Can this be decided at a high level or too personal?

  Reply

Howard Lebowitz

March 1, 2012
02:59 PM

Beren Academy

Rabbi Jacobs,
Thank you for your support!!
Beautifully put.

  Reply


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