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Beren-sanity! Jewish Basketball Team Loses in State Final

Mar 1, 2012 at 01:58:52 AM

FINAL: In Friday's rescheduled semi-final game, the Shabbat Stars of Beren Academy won a decisive 58-46 win over Dallas Covenant to advance to the State Championship, as Zach Yoshor led the team with 24 points.

In the final, following a well-deserved Shabbat rest, the team fought valiantly, going into locker room at halftime tied at 19-19, but couldn't hold on and lost 46-42. A dramatic ending to an amazing story. Beren-sanity!

UPDATE: In what one U.S. newspaper called "a Purim miracle," an injunction filed with U.S. District Court has prompted the Texas league to rearrange its schedule and allow Beren Academy to participate in the state basketball tourney.

Though Beren officials had opposed legal action, some players and parents filed suit alleging a violation of religious freedoms ― essentially forcing the league to abide by what should have been a common-sense decision. The lawsuit itself is a fascinating read.

Throughout the ordeal, Beren's players have acted with graceful maturity and brought loads of positive PR to the institution of Shabbat. Whatever happens in their playoff game, these kids are total winners.

ORIGINAL POST:

Remember when Sandy Koufax refused to pitch in the World Series on Yom Kippur ― and became a Jewish hero?

A similar clash of principles is playing out this week in Texas.

Beren Academy, an Orthodox Jewish day school in Houston, won its regional basketball championship to advance to the Final Four of the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools.

Unfortunately, the tournament game is scheduled for 9 p.m. Friday, which falls on Shabbat. Beren's players announced they would not attend, saying that nothing ― short of a medical emergency ― would trump 3,000 years of Jewish observance.

Beren Academy appealed for a change in game time, but the league refused ― even though the other three semifinalists announced willingness to make the accommodation. The league has been heavily criticized by a wide spectrum of concerned citizens including an NBA coach and a U.S. Senator.

Interestingly, the league's bylaws expressly forbid any games from being played on Sundays, in deference to Christian teams. In other words, the league already makes an accommodation for religious observance.

Why the double standard?

*    *    *

But I think there's a bigger question: Are these boys being short-changed? Are they missing out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to realize their championship dreams, to excel in the spotlight, and to bring positive PR to a Jewish day school?

To me, the answer is obvious. After having worked hard all year to post a 23-5 record (the best season in school history, what one writer called "a Hoosiers season in yarmulkes"), these kids are surely disappointed.

But in the long run, loyalty to Jewish ideals and standing up for what's right are much greater lifelong lessons.

Especially in today's world, with fads fleeting at cyber-speed, young people need strong core values.

Nobody knows whether Beren would have won the championship. But with write-ups everywhere from ESPN to the New York Times, they have, paradoxically, excelled in the spotlight and done an award-winning job of representing the Jewish people.

Albert Katz, a junior guard, told the Houston Chronicle:

"It just teaches that you can't always get what you want, that you have to deal with the consequences and live with what you are. We are Jews, and we don't do anything on the seventh day and that's how it is. There are bigger things in life than basketball."

Talk about a teachable moment.

Published: March 1, 2012


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Visitor Comments: 5

(5) Beverly Kurtin, March 8, 2012 4:57 AM

Texas

As a citizen of Tejas (the correct spelling of the state, it means friendship) I am thoroughly disgusted that the bunch who didn't want to change the schedule so that Jews could not play. My son-in-law is a member of some of the sports players associations for high school and colleges. He had nothing to do with this monstrous attempt to prevent Jewish kids from participating in the semi-finals. The bottom line is that Tejas is essentially a Baptist state, filled with Jew haters who deny that their "god" was a Jew. It would have been wonderful had they won as a reward for keeping Shabbat rather than play but who knows the mind of G-d? All I know is that the team they played deserves kudos for their willingness to delay the game after Shabbat was over. It was also a great lesson for those Christians who still think that the seventh day is NOT the first day of the week.

(4) Judith Herzog, March 4, 2012 9:55 PM

Beren knows what is really important

The Beren Academy exists to teach Jewish young people what is truly important, important, that is, for Jews. Of what importance could a ballgame be? What real good could it possibly do for anyone? Oh! It could be teaching every student involved, Jewish or not, the difference between really important values and...uh, game playing. It could be teaching that one of the really important values is one's religeous beliefs, Jewish or not. It could be teaching them to be human beings. Unfortunately, only the Jewish kids are learning that, along with the knowledge that the rest of the world doesn't care about Jews, or other human beings, or even, by extension, their own religions.

(3) Anonymous, March 1, 2012 7:35 PM

Shame

I was just reading an update in the Huffington Post and it reads that allowance was made for Seventh Adventist religion couple of years ago. Shame on them for such blatant discrimination. Let the world see!

(2) Deborah, March 1, 2012 7:27 PM

Robbery

This is appalling - pure and simple robbery! The playoff game could be played any day and if one concession has been made for Sunday then it should also be made for Shabbat. As a Christian mom, we dealt with similar events when certain leagues played on Sunday, which we had no part of. I applaud these young men for their outstanding values and dedication to their beliefs - they will make great leaders.

(1) Yaakov, March 1, 2012 10:15 AM

Game should be changed - for everyone's benefit

The league is doing a major disservice by not changing the game - not only are the Beren players being prevented from competing for a championship, but I'm 100% sure that none of the other teams in the tournament would themselves want to win on account of another team forefiting. Everyone is being shortchanged.

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