Shabbat Surfing: They Get to Play


Earlier this week we were introduced to the boys’ basketball team from the Orthodox day school Robert M. Beren Academy in Houston, Texas. The team had made it to the semi-finals but couldn’t play because the game was scheduled for 9pm tonight (Friday). Throughout the season several of Beren’s opponents had agreed to reschedule games to avoid conflicts with Shabbat, but the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) would not budge on this tournament game. TAPPS shot down Beren’s appeal to play the game in the afternoon in a 8-0 vote, with one member absent. It seemed certain that the 23-5 Beren team would have to forfeit.

Petitions circulated, inflammatory blog posts were published, and Houston mayor Annise D. Parker expressed her disappointment in a letter to TAPPS. “It is also my understanding that TAPPS teams are not allowed to play any sports on Sundays,” Parker wrote. “Which I presume is out of respect for the Christian Sabbath.”

Yesterday it was decided that the game would be rescheduled for 2 pm. In the end, however, TAPPS cited legal concerns as their reason for rescheduling. DC-based father-daughter legal team Nathan and Alyza Lewin contacted a pair of attorneys in Texas to take on the case. Together and pro bono, the lawyers filed a complaint and application for a temporary restraining order  on behalf of Beren Academy players and their parents.

Players and parents are happy that TAPPS, whatever the reason, finally made the right decision. The future will likely bring up more issues and discussions of pluralism in the organization but in the meantime: GO STARS!

Mayra Beltran/Houston Chronicle, via Associated Press

Note: Nathan and Alyza Lewin will be going head-to-head about Baruch De Spinoza’s excommunication in Theater J’s Spinozium on April 1. Find out more about the Spinozium and Theater J’s production of New Jerusalem: The Interrogation of Baruch De Spinoza here.

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