Jewish Team Forfeits Semi-Final Game On Sabbath

The Beren Academy boys basketball team is the talk of the sports world today. Beren is an Orthodox Jewish school located just south of Meyerland. The basketball team is having to forfeit this Friday's state semi-final game because it falls on their Sabbath. The case is making news because of the district's decision not to reschedule the game.

Ed Burleson is the director of TAPPS, Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools. Ever since radio stations and sports writers heard about TAPPS decision not change game times for Beren Academy, the phone’s been ringing constantly and they’ve been called all sorts of names in emails:

“… bigoted and prejudice and evil.”

Burleson says none of that is the case. He says three years ago. Beren Academy came to them and wanted to join the league, because the school was an independent at the time, and there were no playoffs for them to play in.

“TAPPS pointed out to them at the time before they were ever accepted to membership that it conducted its state playoffs on Fridays and Saturdays, and if indeed the school held true to its religious beliefs that would present a problem if they ever made it to the finals. Their statement was at that time, ‘we’re not very good. The only thing we want to do is to be able to play in a district and that will not be a problem for us.'”

Beren Coach Chris Cole says sure they knew there could be a problem one day, but since they weren’t in a league at all they were willing to take that chance.

“You’d just end the season and that was it. You just walk off the court and there’s nothing there. So even if you said, ‘ok you can’t win a state championship at this point.’ We felt like just being in the district, being able to go to the playoffs in general, that was a positive in itself.”

Beren has played and won three straight playoff games. But the next semi final game was schedule to be played this Friday night. The Sabbath begins at sundown.

This is Avi Pollak, a school administrator:

“You know leagues make exceptions all the time when they consider the issue important enough and when it’s a pressing concern, and we’re asking they make an exception as they’ve done in the past.”

The school appealed to the league board, but the board said no by a 9-0 vote. Director Burleson says that’s as far as the case can go.                                                 

“That appeal went directly to the board and they have denied it, so any other appeal would go back to the same body. Normally, they don’t rehear an appeal once it’s been given.”

Junior Zach Yoshi is a center on the team and scored 40 points the last game. He’d like a chance to do it again at the semi final.

“I knew there was a chance, we were aware that there was a chance we might not be able to participate in the state championship and semi-finals.”

Director Burleson says he feels bad for the school and especially the players. On the other hand, school administrators say they understand rules are rules and aren’t asking for any to be broken, just an exception. But if that doesn’t happen, the team says they’ve already had a year they’ll never forget.