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Jewish School Forfeits Tourney Game to Observe Sabbath

The boys' basketball team at an Orthodox Jewish day school in Houston, coming off its best regular season ever with a 23-5 record, will forfeit its opportunity to play a state tournament semifinal game this weekend because its scheduled start time conflicts with the observation of the Jewish Sabbath.

The Robert M. Beren Academy Stars were scheduled to play in the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools' 2A state tournament Friday at 9 p.m. against Dallas' The Covenant School. Beren officials appealed to TAPPS, asking for the game to be moved to an earlier time, but that appeal was denied Monday. Covenant will now face Our Lady of the Hills in Kerrville - a team Beren soundly beat, 69-42, in last week's regional round.

"It's disappointing," Beren basketball coach and athletic director Chris Cole told the Houston Chronicle. "I've been here 10 years and I've always known where our priorities lie. We were hopeful and optimistic going in that we could be able to do both - adhere to the religious beliefs here and play basketball."

Beren, with a student enrollment of 67, already rescheduled two of its boys' basketball playoff games this month, but this time TAPPS wasn't budging. "When Beren's joined years ago, we advised them that the Sabbath would present them with a problem with the finals," association director Edd Burleson told The New York Times. "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. If the schools are just going to arrange their own schedule, why do we even set a tournament?"

Conflicts between religious beliefs and sports schedules are becoming more common, according to Sarah Barringer Gordon, a professor of law and history at the University of Pennsylvania, who cites changing demographics in the United States. "Some associations are rethinking who their constituencies are," Barringer Gordon told Times reporter Mary Pilon. "As pluralism works its way through American sports, we're going to see more and more situations like this one."

For example, some high schools with large Muslim populations have made concessions to Muslim student-athletes who play football, moving preseason practices to the middle of the night in order to provide a way for players to eat and drink while observing the holy month of daytime fasting known as Ramadan.

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