Commentary Magazine


Topic: High school basketball

Court Rights Wrong; Puts Jewish Team Back in Texas Tourney

On Tuesday, I discussed the principled decision of the Robert M. Beren Academy, a Jewish Day School in Houston, to forego a chance to win the Texas state parochial and private school basketball championship because their semi-final game was scheduled to be played on Friday night, thereby violating the Sabbath. The team’s willingness to put their religion above sports honored their Orthodox Jewish faith and served as a sterling example to the nation of what religious values really mean.

It is highly unfortunate that the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools, which sponsors the state tournament, couldn’t have seen their way to moving up the game’s start to allow it to be completed before sundown on Friday. But a state court has now stepped in to rectify this injustice. After a number of parents of the boys on the Beren Stars team sued the association over its willingness to discriminate against a Jewish school, a judge on Thursday issued a temporary restraining order requiring the group to reschedule the game. In compliance with the judicial fiat, the game will now be played at 2 p.m. on Friday–with Beren on the court.

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On Tuesday, I discussed the principled decision of the Robert M. Beren Academy, a Jewish Day School in Houston, to forego a chance to win the Texas state parochial and private school basketball championship because their semi-final game was scheduled to be played on Friday night, thereby violating the Sabbath. The team’s willingness to put their religion above sports honored their Orthodox Jewish faith and served as a sterling example to the nation of what religious values really mean.

It is highly unfortunate that the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools, which sponsors the state tournament, couldn’t have seen their way to moving up the game’s start to allow it to be completed before sundown on Friday. But a state court has now stepped in to rectify this injustice. After a number of parents of the boys on the Beren Stars team sued the association over its willingness to discriminate against a Jewish school, a judge on Thursday issued a temporary restraining order requiring the group to reschedule the game. In compliance with the judicial fiat, the game will now be played at 2 p.m. on Friday–with Beren on the court.

It’s not clear to us if the suit by the boys’ parents would have prevailed in court. The association is a voluntary organization, and it is possible that they could have argued that, unlike a state institution, they were not complied by law to make reasonable accommodations for Jewish schools. But the legal merits of the case notwithstanding, the judge’s action (which renders the lawsuit moot) has enabled the Texas group to avoid a horrendous mistake. To have effectively excluded a Jewish team from its championship game would have run contrary to the religious values the association’s schools claim to promote.

More in keeping with the spirit of fair play was the reaction of Our Lady of the Hills High School, which would have played in the semifinal game had the original schedule prevailed. Fox News reports the school issued a statement saying they support the scheduling change:

As Beren Academy expressed support for us playing in their stead, we share our support of them in their earned semi-final game,” the statement read. “Good Luck Stars!”

But no matter who wins the championship, it’s clear the real winner in this tournament is a Beren team that stood up for their faith and showed the country there are more important victories to be won than those on the basketball court.

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Sabbath Observing Texas High School Does More for Faith Than Tebow

The role of faith in the public square has become an issue in the presidential campaign recently, but no candidate has done more to advance the cause of freedom of religion in this country than a Houston-area Jewish school. The Robert M. Beren Academy had won a chance to play in the state’s parochial school basketball championships semi-finals this weekend. But since their game is scheduled for Friday night during the observance of the Sabbath, the team will not compete.While the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools is facing some justified criticism for its refusal to make any accommodation for the Jewish team, the honor the school will win for standing up for their principles far exceeds any glory they might have gotten by playing the game.

The Anti-Defamation League has weighed in on the controversy and asked the organizers of the championships to bend a little and find a way to reconfigure their schedule to allow the Beren Academy their chance. The group’s position is the same rules should apply to all schools, but Beren’s win in the state quarterfinals was made possible because their opponent, Our Lady of the Hills, which is a Catholic school, were willing to move the starting time up last Friday to the afternoon before the Sabbath started. But because the private and parochial school group is a voluntary rather than a state-run outfit, the Jewish school cannot legally demand a reasonable accommodation. The association’s decision seems hard-hearted. But if they choose not to budge, it must be acknowledged that sometimes there is a price to be paid for loyalty to faith and principle. That’s disappointing for the kids at Beren, but it’s also something for them to be proud of.

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The role of faith in the public square has become an issue in the presidential campaign recently, but no candidate has done more to advance the cause of freedom of religion in this country than a Houston-area Jewish school. The Robert M. Beren Academy had won a chance to play in the state’s parochial school basketball championships semi-finals this weekend. But since their game is scheduled for Friday night during the observance of the Sabbath, the team will not compete.While the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools is facing some justified criticism for its refusal to make any accommodation for the Jewish team, the honor the school will win for standing up for their principles far exceeds any glory they might have gotten by playing the game.

The Anti-Defamation League has weighed in on the controversy and asked the organizers of the championships to bend a little and find a way to reconfigure their schedule to allow the Beren Academy their chance. The group’s position is the same rules should apply to all schools, but Beren’s win in the state quarterfinals was made possible because their opponent, Our Lady of the Hills, which is a Catholic school, were willing to move the starting time up last Friday to the afternoon before the Sabbath started. But because the private and parochial school group is a voluntary rather than a state-run outfit, the Jewish school cannot legally demand a reasonable accommodation. The association’s decision seems hard-hearted. But if they choose not to budge, it must be acknowledged that sometimes there is a price to be paid for loyalty to faith and principle. That’s disappointing for the kids at Beren, but it’s also something for them to be proud of.

In his book The Gift of Rest, Senator Joseph Lieberman spoke of the beauty of Sabbath observance. But he also demonstrated that his insistence on not working or conducting business as usual for the 25 hours that stretch from sundown on Friday to the appearance of the first star on Saturday has won him the respect of the non-Jewish majority in his state and the nation. There are times when being faithful to one’s principles will necessitate sacrifice, and it’s a shame the kids at Beren are learning that this week. Yet, in refusing to bend to the dictates of the majority, they have done more to honor the cause of faith than the histrionics of football star Tim Tebow. No matter who wins the state basketball championship in Texas this year, the Beren team is the true champion.

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