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April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Shomrei Shabbos’

Playing For A Higher Authority: The Inside Story Of Beren Hoopsters’ Kiddush Hashem

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

On Tuesday, February 28, it was widely reported that the basketball team of Houston’s Robert M. Beren Academy had “forfeited” its place in the semi-finals of the tournament conducted by the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) because it would not play on Friday night and Saturday. But a headline in Friday’s New York Times read: “In Reversal, a Jewish School Gets to Play.”

This is the story of what happened during those three days.

Beren is one of a few Modern Orthodox Jewish high-schools in Texas. Its male graduates customarily spend the year after graduation attending yeshivot in Israel. And it had a superb basketball team this year – good enough to make it through the preliminary rounds in the TAPPS annual basketball tournament. Those victories qualified it, along with three other Texas teams in a field of 32, for the final four – the select teams that compete in a final set of matches and then in the final game for the statewide championship.

And there came the rub. The games to be played by the final four were scheduled by TAPPS to be held on the night of Friday, March 2, and during the day on Saturday, March 3. The Beren administration and its basketball coach had successfully arranged with other opponents in the TAPPS league to reschedule matches that had initially been scheduled for Shabbat. The TAPPS bylaws and rules authorized rescheduling by mutual agreement. Beren’s potential opponent in the scheduled semi-final game, the Dallas Covenant Christian School, agreed it would compete early on Friday afternoon rather than in the evening to accommodate the Sabbath observance of the Beren team.

But when the agreement was presented by Beren to the TAPPS administration – and particularly to Edd Burleson, the founder and director of TAPPS – Beren received a jolting “no.” In an e-mail dated February 27 – the Monday before the scheduled Friday semifinal game – Burleson not only said that “the TAPPS Executive Board has voted to deny your appeal to reschedule certain games in the State Basketball Tournament on March 2 & 3, 2012,” but went on to castigate Beren for having participated in the early rounds of the tournament.

According to Burleson, Section 138(c)(3)e of the interminable and dense TAPPS Rules permitted only teams that would certify that they would play in the playoff games “as scheduled” to play in the earlier rounds. TAPPS declared that Beren had forfeited its place in the semifinals and assigned the team it had defeated by 27 points to Beren’s place in the final four.

There seemed to be no time in which to reverse this outrageous decision. The following day’s media accounts, including The New York Times in a featured full-length account, treated Beren’s exclusion from the TAPPS semi-finals as a fait accompli – much as it might report after-the-fact on an execution.

Beren enlisted Texas senator John Cronyn, Houston mayor Annise Parker, and other notable public figures in an effort to pressure Burleson to change what seemed, to most sensible observers, a foolish decision that smacked of religious bigotry. The TAPPS rules and bylaws declare proudly, in light of its normative Christian origin, that no game in any athletic competition run by TAPPS may be played on Sunday. Sabbath observance on any day other than Sunday was given no respect, even though TAPPS had admitted Jewish day schools and a Seventh-Day Adventist Academy located in Arlington, Texas.

The Seventh-Day Adventist school had been denied three requests for rescheduling of its basketball games. A semifinal soccer match in which it was a participant was rescheduled because all final four teams made the request, but the TAPPS administration decided it would never again make a similar rescheduling adjustment for religious accommodation.

* * * * *

I was called about this case on Monday night by Etan Mirwis, father of the Beren team captain. My daughter and law partner Alyza – who was a full-time colleague in this battle – also was contacted on Tuesday by two individuals who had worked around the clock in a remarkably similar 2009 successful effort to reverse a discriminatory decision by the National High School Mock Trial Association to exclude the Mock Trial Team of Boston’s Maimonides School from a final round in Atlanta because Maimonides would not compete on Shabbat. These volunteers on our team are Daniel Edelman (a lawyer who was a classmate of Alyza’s at Princeton) and Jeff Kosowsky (a parent of the 2009 Maimonides Mock Trial team captain). They spent many hours providing advice, assistance, and encouragement over the following three days.

Given the very brief window before the semifinal game on Friday, it seemed that only a prompt court action could provide relief. The concluding round was to be played in the Dallas area, and any lawsuit would probably have to be filed in that city. I remembered a good friend and colleague in the formidable 1960 Harvard Law School class (which boasted such stars as Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the late former Chief Judge Richard Arnold of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, presidential candidate Michael Dukakis, deputy attorneys general William Ruckelshaus and Phillip Heymann, senator Paul Sarbanes, Watergate prosecutor Earl Silbert, and many noted law professors).

‘Killer’ Shidduchim

Wednesday, July 18th, 2007

         Most of us have heard the Talmudic assertion that “He who saves a life, saves a world,” and conversely, “He who kills a life, kills a world.”

 

         Lately I have been wondering if “killing a world” can extend to someone who undermines a potential shidduch and delays or prevents the subsequent creation of children. Should a person who gives misleading information – either by withholding pertinent facts, or allowing a personal bias to negatively label a boy/girl being redd, be viewed as having “destroyed worlds?”

 

         Case in point: “Suri” liked to dabble in shidduchim and acted as a go-between to facilitate the gathering of information. One day she bumped into an acquaintance, Mrs. X. at a simchah. Mrs. X. had given Suri a parve recommendation about a boy who she was acquainted with. This boy had been suggested to Suri’s friend’s daughter. Suri commiserated with Mrs. X. as to how the couple met, dated and  married, but got divorced weeks later.

 

         “I’m not surprised,” Mrs. X stated. When a speechless Suri regained her composure, she exclaimed in shock, “You aren’t surprised? You mean you knew there was something wrong with this boy and you said nothing??” “Well,” Mrs. X. harrumphed, I didn’t want to fahshter a shidduch. Sometimes marriage can straighten people out and they change for the better.”

 

         In the meantime, this hapless girl in her early 20s is a divorcee, who is having a much harder time getting married, despite her numerous qualities and fine character. Her classmates and friends are building their families – but the building of hers has been severely compromised – and delayed – for who knows how long.  Is this not destroying a world?

 

         Recently there was a letter in Rebbetzin Jungreis’ column from a woman who, B’H, had married off over a dozen children, mostly girls. The letter-writer shared that when her youngest daughter inquired about a bachur, who had been suggested to her, she was told by a friend that her sister had gone out with him and felt, “he lacked middos.” What was the “bad” behavior that brought her to this conclusion? He did not walk her to the door.

 

         Despite this negative report, her daughter felt there must have been good things about this boy if her friend’s parents had agreed to the shidduch in the first place. She decided to give the young man the benefit of the doubt, saying perhaps he was too inexperienced to know better. She dated him and found him to be a wonderful, young man with great middos and is now very happily married to him.

 

         This young man was lucky. Because of an unwarranted slur on his character, his chances of getting a normal shidduch would have been out the window. The parents of the pool of girls he would be dating – those sharing his hashkafos and goals – would have heard through the “grapevine”- as did the letter-writer’s daughter – that “he lacked middos” and would have turned him down. He would have gotten one “No” after another, without ever knowing why.

 

         A thoughtless young girl, with no inkling of the importance of her words, casually give an ehrlich young man a negative label with the very real possibility of harming his chances for a shidduch, essentially delaying, at best, and preventing, at worst, the birth of his children. Killing worlds, so to speak. As I said, fortunately for him, another young lady decided to give him a chance.

 

         How unfair that a personal bias could have caused a young man to be mislabeled, ruining his name, his future, and possibly even his physical and emotional well-being.

 

         As do the biases of people, who unfortunately, have a very strong influence on those in the shidduch parshah.

 

         I personally know of rabbanim who have told girls not to date fine young men “because they are not frum enough.” On what are these rabbanim basing their assessment of these yeshiva graduates from heimeshe families, who eat mehadrin, glatt, chalav Yisroel, are Shomrei Shabbos, ba’alei chesed and tzedakah, who are kovea itim, learn with chavrusahs and have good middos?  On the fact that these boys, who these rabbanim never met,  went to college – or did not go to beis medrash “long enough.”

 

         Never mind that some of these fine young men felt that kibud av v’eim meant becoming earners so they could spare their hard-working, middle-aged mothers and fathers – or future in-laws – from supporting them – and having to work even harder. Never mind that by being self-supporting their fathers would have more time for their own learning.

 

         And because of that misguided attitude, wonderful bachurim are having a difficult time getting married. Because of this censor-like attitude, boys who are not cut out for serious learning, who really do not have the kop or the “zitzfleish” to truly learn – are warming up benches in the beis medrash – just so they can get a “good” shidduch.

 

         How ironic that girls are being influenced to turn down “earners”- many of whom who are machmir in learning in their spare time – just to marry boys who may or may not be the genuine article. Much to their deep dismay, some end up with husbands who aren’t learning – and lacking an education or skills – aren’t working either. That state of affairs is not conducive to shalom bayis.

 

         In another situation that I know of, a rav advised a young man in his mid 30s not to marry the young woman he was seeing – because she was a few years older. She eventually married years later, but was unable to have children. He is still single.

 

         In another case, a ba’alas teshuvah in her late 20s, from a divorced home, who unfortunately was not getting too many shidduchim offers due to her background, was told by her rav not to get engaged to the “kippah serugah” who she had met at a lecture and was dating. Each was what the other was looking for in hashkafos  and personality. The devastated young man insisted that he meet with her rav, who impressed by his ehrlichkeit and knowledge and practice of Yiddishkeit, grudgingly gave his “permission.”

 

         What would have happened if the young man hadn’t been so persistent?

 

         Many people have shared similar stories of how wrong information resulted in ill-fated marriages – and divorces – and likewise prevented a well-matched pair from even meeting.

 

         Those who are in the position to influence a shidduch should take heed of what they do or do not say – and be very mindful of the impact the words that come out of their mouths can have. To do otherwise is to risk having to explain on Yom HaDin – why they destroyed worlds.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/killer-shidduchim/2007/07/18/

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