The Robert M. Beren Academy, an Orthodox Jewish day school in Houston, won its regional championship to advance to the boys basketball state semifinals this weekend in Dallas. But the team will not make the trip.
The Beren Academy players observe the Sabbath and do not play from sundown on Fridays to sundown on Saturdays. Their semifinal game is scheduled for 9 p.m. Friday.
“The sacred mission will trump excellence in the secular world,” Rabbi Harry Sinoff, Beren’s head of school, said Monday in a telephone interview.
The school filed an appeal to change the time of the game with the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools, or Tapps, the group that organizes the tournament. On Monday morning, representatives of the school were notified that the association’s nine-member executive board had rejected the appeal.
“When Beren’s joined years ago, we advised them that the Sabbath would present them with a problem with the finals,” Edd Burleson, the director of the association, said. “In the past, Tapps has held firmly to their rules because if schedules are changed for these schools, it’s hard for other schools.
“If we solve one problem, we create another problem.”
Membership in the association is voluntary, Burleson said.
There’s so much to admire in the stance Beren has taken here. Most important, of course, is Rabbi Sinoff’s statement that “the sacred mission will trump excellence in the secular world.” I cannot express how inspiring and admirable I find that, especially in this day and age. Secondly, though, the school’s leadership is not screaming bloody murder and threatening to take Tapps to court to compel them to accommodate its needs. I wish Tapps would have found a way to do that, but if you read the whole story, Tapps’s argument makes sense. Beren knew what it was getting into when it signed up with Tapps, and now the school is agreeing to bear the cost of its convictions.
No matter who wins the state basketball championship, those young men, their coaches, and their rabbi are already champions where it counts the most. Congratulations to them!