Reconsider Decision about Playoff Games on Shabbat

— Annette Powers

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.

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