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Jewish team won't play game due to Sabbath

  • Orthodox school's hoops team won't play in state semi-finals because game occurs on the Sabbath
  • Event organizer refuses requests to reschedule game
  • Coach: Team's mature response to adversity says a lot about its character

An Orthodox Jewish school's basketball team won't be making the trip to the state semi-finals because their game is scheduled to be played at 9 p.m. Friday night, which conflicts with their honoring of the Sabbath.

They had filed a request with the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) to have the game moved because of the conflict it presents with their faith, but the request was turned down.

The players from Houston's Beren Academy observe the Sabbath from sundown Friday through Saturday night. The Sabbath is a day of rest and no work of any kind, including playing in a state tournament basketball game.

Senior point guard Isaac Mirwis says, "It's tradition, it's principle, and we stick true to our principles and that's what makes an identity. God doesn't take a week off from us, so we can't take a week off from God."

The director of TAPPS, which sponsors this tournament, tells HLN affiliate KPRC, "The tournament is a big affair and requires a lot of planning and scheduling and coordination to play that many games in that narrow amount of time." And even though he says they have received hundreds of emails and phone calls accusing them of bigotry and anti-Semitism, it's not likely they'll change their decision.

Director Edd Burleson says to shuffle game times would cause too much disruption. Burleson told the New York Times, “If the schools are just going to arrange their own schedule, why do we even set a tournament?”

Beren coach Chris Cole told the Times that many of the team's opponents agreed to reschedule game times this year in order to accommodate their religion. But Burleson says that Beren Academy was informed back when they joined TAPPS that this could be an issue if the team qualified for the state tournament.

Still, the team continues to practice, hoping something will change that will allow them to play in the tournament at a time that doesn't fall during such a spiritually important period.

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