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April 24, 2014 / 24 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Beren Academy’

The Jewish World Series: Home Run for Unison

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

Baseball was on Rabbi Zvi Kahn’s mind as he headed from his home in Columbus, Ohio, to the nearby Jewish Community Center after Havdalah one Saturday night in May, three years ago. More accurately, a baseball tournament.

Rabbi Kahn is headmaster of Columbus Torah Academy, a Modern Orthodox day school (K-12) that was sponsoring a first-of-its-kind baseball tournament among four Jewish high schools over one long weekend in 2010. Earlier games on Thursday evening and Friday afternoon had drawn nice crowds of visiting parents and local fans, but the Motzaei Shabbat competition, starting at 10:30 pm, was the centerpiece of the tournament. Rabbi Kahn was worried that people wouldn’t show up.

He needn’t have worried.

As he drove up to the JCC, the site of the Columbus Baseball Invitational, he saw cars vying for parking spaces. “The parking lot was full,” he says.

“I had to park farther away, on a side street.”

The Saturday night crowd, the rabbi says, confirmed that the school’s decision to establish such a sports venture was a success, giving young frum athletes a chance to compete in a kosher atmosphere without Shabbat scheduling conflicts and with bleachers full of enthusiastic supporters.

KOSHER BASEBALL

The need for such a Shabbat-considerate—if not strictly shomer Shabbat—sports tournament was revealed last winter when the boys’ basketball team of Houston’s Beren Academy, a day school whose team had reached the semifinals in its league for small private and parochial schools, became the center of a national controversy. Beren nearly had to forfeit a game, and a shot at the championship, because the semifinal and final games were scheduled to be played on Shabbat. Following a firestorm of publicity, including support for the school from largely non-Christian celebrities and politicians, and sympathetic coverage by the Houston media, a Friday evening game was changed to Friday afternoon.

Beren won that semifinal; the final game was played Saturday night. The issue created a major kiddush Hashem, educating the wider public about the specifics of Sabbath observance and the sacrifices it sometimes entails.

“[The tournament] is very important to these kids and their families,” Rabbi Kahn says.

“If adults ignore what [teens] are interested in, we’re going to lose them,” says Dr. Tricia Rosenstein, a pediatrician and Torah Academy parent.

For most teens, especially in a Modern Orthodox milieu where athletics often plays a prominent role, competitive sports are a normal—and valued—part of adolescence. This is especially so in Columbus, home of the Ohio State Buckeyes, one of college football’s most successful teams, and of fans who continue their rabid interest as alumni. On Friday night, Torah Academy students can hear the sound of fans cheering at high school football games in their neighborhoods.

The students, frum but worldly, want the excitement and recognition that surround other—non-Jewish—schools’ sports programs, family members of the day school students say.

“Kids need something a little bigger than themselves to feel part of,” says Dr. Rosenstein. “Now,” she says, “they get to hear their own cheering.”

“Athletics, like academics, provides the challenges that help shape both the mind and body,” according to the day school’s sports blog (ctaathletics.blogspot.com). “Many studies show that qualities such as commitment and desire drive our students to compete and excel in the classroom, on the field and later, in their chosen professions.” Which is why the school said yes when Steve Guinan, a baseball coach and English teacher at Torah Academy, asked whether a baseball tournament among similar Modern Orthodox institutions is feasible.

A TOURNAMENT IS BORN

Word went out over the Internet and several schools expressed interest.

First at bat were Chicago’s Ida Crown Jewish Academy, Manhattan’s Ramaz School and the Kushner Hebrew Academy in Livingston, New Jersey. The initial Columbus Baseball Invitational—renamed the Jewish World Series—was born within a few months. The 2012 tournament included Ramaz, Ida Crown, Yeshiva Atlanta, Kushner and Rabbi Alexander S. Gross High School in Miami. A tournament is scheduled for this coming spring as well.

“We thought it would be more local, limited to schools closer to Columbus,” says Coach Guinan. To his surprise, more distant schools signed up for the tournament, which takes place after end-of-year exams are over.

ACHDUT (UNISON) ON AND OFF THE FIELD

Vindicating Principle

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Nathan Lewin writes eloquently in his front-page essay in this week’s Jewish Press about the successful effort to secure the right of religious Jewish students to compete in a basketball tournament despite having been being scheduled to play on Friday evening.

As it turned out, the refusal of the students to violate the Sabbath was just the beginning of the episode. But we can be justly proud of all the media coverage revolving around a group of Orthodox Jewish students at Houston’s Beren Academy who had decided not to participate in a prestigious basketball competition if it conflicted with the requirements of their faith.

The tournament sponsors, the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools, refused to accommodate a request for rescheduling. This is what TAPPS director Edd Burleson said:

When Beren’s [sic] joined years ago, we advise them that the Sabbath would present them with a problem with the finals. In the past TAPPS has held firmly to their rules because of schedules are changed for the 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? Over a period of time, our state tournament, which is a highlight of our association, deteriorates to nothing. That’s the whole point of having an organization.

Of course, Mr. Burleson was trying to paper over the fact that the schools Beren Academy was going to compete against had agreed to change the time of the games in order to meet the religious needs of the Beren players.

But the valor of the students is not the only part of the Kiddush Hashem here. The accommodation of the students’ religious needs was secured through the intervention of Mr. Lewin, an internationally acclaimed attorney and well-known Orthodox Jew who since the late 1960s has, in a pro bono capacity, pioneered the notion that the reasonable accommodation of religious needs in the context of standard societal practices is an aspect of the American value of the right to the free exercise of religion. He has done this in various venues, including the United States Supreme Court.

It is also noteworthy that officials of the Beren Academy and other members of the Houston Jewish community were reluctant to commence legal action. As Mr. Lewin’s daughter and law partner Alyza Lewin, said “There was resistance to our bringing the lawsuit. We’re sorry that there are members of the Jewish community who are reluctant to challenge bias and prejudice. But this case shows that sometimes legal action is necessary to get a result.”

We agree. We believe that responsible resort to the American legal system is the right way to go for the Jewish community in protecting the rights of its members who, after all, constitute a religious minority.

Texas Orthodox Jewish School Loses Bball Final

Monday, March 5th, 2012

The NY Times reports that Robert M. Beren Academy, an Orthodox Jewish high school which succeeded in its appeal to reschedule a semi-final game of the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools from Shabbat to Friday afternoon last week, on Saturday night lost to Abilene Christian, 46-42, in the state championship game.

The final, moved from Shabbat afternoon, was played at 8 p.m. at a Catholic school in Fort Worth. Beren Academy trailed for much of the first two quarters before tying the score at halftime, 19-19. But the Jewish team failed to keep pace with Abilene in the second half.

“We’re just happy they had a chance to play,” Beren Academy Coach Chris Cole said.

Congrats! Texas Jewish School Gets to Play Ball Friday Afternoon, Observe Shabbat

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

The Robert M. Beren Academy, an Orthodox Jewish high school, was expecting to have to forfeit their game against the Covenant School of Dallas, which was scheduled for 9 p.m. Friday. The school appealed to the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (Tapps), organizers of the event, but the association initially said it was unwilling to change the time of the game.

But on Thursday, Tapps announced it would allow the Beren Academy to reschedule the semifinal game as well as the final – if they win the semi.

The semifinal will be played at 2 p.m. Friday at Nolan Catholic High School in Forth Worth. The championship game would take place at 8 p.m. Saturday, according to Tapps director Edd Burelson, who confessed the changes were made after his organization had received hundreds of e-mails asking them to let the Beren kids play.

Boxed Out: No Exceptions for Orthodox School in Texas Scheduled to Play Bball on Shabbat

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

An Orthodox Jewish school in Houston, Texas will not be playing its scheduled semifinal basketball game this weekend after its appeal to have the game moved from Friday night was rejected.

The Robert M. Beren Academy was informed on Monday that the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) board had unanimously rejected it’s appeal.

Since all the players on the team are shomer shabbat, there is no chance they will be taking the court, barring a time change. In comments to the Houston Chronicle, Beren’s basketball coach Chris Cole said, “It’s never happened where we’ve played during Shabbat, and it will never happen. The kids know that, and the kids are fantastic at understanding.”

Cole elaborated on the boards rationale: “They say the inconvenience of rescheduling the games outweighs any other factors.”

The players have become celebrities in their own right, not least for their conviction. “There’s nothing in the Jewish religion that doesn’t want us to play basketball,” Beren senior Isaac Mirwis said. “But 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.”

Martin Chominsky, the Anti-Defamation League’s Southwest Regional Director, sent a letter to TAPPS urging it to reconsider its decision. Adjusting the schedule would allow the team to play “without having to choose between competing and observing their religious holy days.”

TAPPS director Ed Burleson conceded Tuesday that it was unlikely that the board would reverse its decision, and he remained unapologetic: “We think it’s clear-cut. They were advised, up front, that TAPPS would not change that, and they chose to join TAPPS anyway. There was never any indication from TAPPS that their appeal would be approved.”

Still, Beren had reason to hope after last week’s regional final, which was made possible solely on account of opponent Our Lady of the Hills Catholic school’s voluntarily assent to move the game from Friday night to early afternoon.

In the meantime, Beren has been replaced in the semifinal game by Our Lady of the Hills. Cole said the team is continuing to practice in the hope that the association reverses it course and reschedules the game. The finals are scheduled for 2 pm on Saturday.

Yori’s News Picks from All Over, Tue. 2/28/12

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

So, what have the children of Jacob and the people who hate them been up to over the past 24 hours? What can I say, it’s a violent planet. But even in a violent blue-green ball like ours, some stories still get our goat. Like this one:

YOU BULLY A JEWISH KID – YOU PAY. IT’S THE LAW

The NY Post reports on a $10.5 million federal suit that says staffers at Eagle Avenue Middle School in West Hempstead stood by as schoolmates abused Gedaliah Hoffman, calling him a “f–king Jew” for wearing a yarmulke.

Staffers caused “the bullying to become escalated by punishing only Gedaliah, although Gedaliah was the victim of the attacks,” says the lawsuit, filed last week by the boy and his mother, Lori Hoffman.

Oh, we want t see that one through. And give ‘em hell, Gedaliah Hoffman!

OK, we can’t do just nasty stuff, where’s the ray of hope thing? Well, there it is, in Borough Park!

LADIES TO THE RESCUE

Like this group of Brooklyn Jewish women who are starting their own ladies-only ambulance service.The NY Daily News reports that Borough Park lawyer Rachel Freier, 46, held the first recruitment drive Sunday for Ezras Nashim — Hebrew for “assisting women’ (but also a great pun on the Hebrew name for the ladies section in shul) — in her dining room. The News says Hatzolah leaders shot down Freier’s request last fall to let women into its 1,300 all-male corps, the city’s largest volunteer ambulance crew, which answers more than 50,000 calls a year.

Ezras Nashim member Hadassah Strauss, 26, retorts: “Women have been delivering babies for thousands of years.” Sharp lady. I strongly advise against getting into an argument with her…

WEEKDAY WARRIORS

And what religious Jewish person’s heart won’t be gladdened by this NY Times headline: In Texas, the Sabbath Trumps the Semifinals. Well, good for the Sabbath! And good for the Robert M. Beren Academy, an Orthodox Jewish day school in Houston, which won its regional championship to advance to the boys basketball state semifinals last weekend in Dallas. But the team will not make the trip. Because the Beren Academy players observe the Sabbath and do not play from sundown on Fridays to sundown on Saturdays. Their semifinal game was scheduled for 9 p.m. Friday.

Hey, I say, wasn’t any super meikel rabbi out there to give the lads an opening? A halachic three-point throw? Nobody?

According to the Times, several of Beren Academy’s opponents this season agreed to change the time of their games to avoid conflicts with the Sabbath. See? All a Jew needs to make it in America is a few nice goyim…

ARE WE GETTING ALONG, OR WHAT?

Dozens of students gathered in the Hughes-Trigg commons to hear from religious leaders of Islam, Judaism and Christianity, and balance and moderation was the main topic of the Islamic Awareness Week’s interfaith discussion panel Monday night – reports the Southern Methodist University Daily Campus.

So we scroll two-three paragraphs down and we get what we just knew had to be in there somewhere, the Jewish guy condemning intolerant Jews. Because, let’s face it. while hoards of Muslim tolerant folks have been storming the public squares of the Third World, with tolerant soldiers and police shooting tolerantly – and with moderation! – into the crowds, them extremists Jews really drowned out that peacefulness with their extremist going on living in their homes.

“Each religious leader discussed how the essential truths of their religions stress the importance of balance and moderation. However, they all spoke of extremists within their religions whose actions go against the core values of their faiths.”

Now, wait for it… wait for it… and – who’s the first panelist to take a crack at the condemn-thine-own-extremist challenge?

“Balance and moderation is a challenge,” Rabbi David Gruber said, describing extremist behavior he witnessed by some Jewish people in Israel.

First one, and ONLY one, folks. Honor murders, decapitations, mass killings, suicide bombing – not event a footnote. Horrible Israelis? Oh yeah, baby, we know all about them.

Even the Christian guy got away with it without mentioning firebombing abortion clinics and murdering abortion doctors, f’rinstance. So now we’re clear: The leasson from Islamic Interfaith Awareness Week at SMU is – we must do something about the Jews.

Good to know.

PRAYING IN BUDAPEST

And speaking of goyim, nice or otherwise, Salt Lake City’s Deseret News reports that LDS Church has been added to Hungarian government’s recognition list, along with five Buddhist groups, Methodists, J Witnesses and two Islamic communities. Well, welcome to the club, guys, and remember: keep the weird stuff to a minimum…

 POLITICS REMAINS A CONTACT SPORT

This would have been funny enough for a dream scene from a Woody Allen movie (the earlier, funny ones): FOX40 News reports that Neo-Nazis and Occupy Groups clashed at Capitol Monday, man what a story. Except two officers were hurt in the clash, and made the story distinctly unfunny.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/jewish-news/yoris-news-picks-from-all-over-tue-22812/2012/02/28/

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