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ADL to Texas basketball tournament: Let them (the Modern Orthodox ballers) play

Remember the dramatic ending in "The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training"? Well, all you need to know for now is that it involved a game at the Houston Astrodome and the crowd chanting "Let them play!"

As we reported on Friday, another team of youngsters — this one from Houston — is facing a similar moment of truth:

NEW YORK (JTA) — A Modern Orthodox school in Houston has reached the semifinals of the state AA boys’ basketball tournament in Texas for private and parochial schools.

The Robert M. Beren Academy advanced last Friday afternoon with a 27-point victory over Our Lady of the Hills Catholic High School of Kerrville. The AA tournament features schools with enrollments of 55 to 120 students.

Shortly after the win, Beren head coach Chris Cole credited Our Lady of the Hills for agreeing to play in the early afternoon. The game had been scheduled for Friday night, after the start of the Jewish Sabbath. Without the accommodation, Beren would have been forced to forfeit.

“They were very accommodating,” Cole said of the Catholic school. He added that it was unclear if the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools, which runs the tournamen would be willing to reschedule the semifinals and finals, both of which are slated to take place during Shabbat on March 3 and 4.

Both games will be played in Mansfield, about 45 minutes from Dallas.

Cole said the Beren student athletes are “very excited.”

“It’s beyond their wildest dreams,” he said. “The community is very supportive. More and more people are coming to the games, and people have been nothing but supportive.”

Now the Houston branch of the ADL is weighing in:

ADL Supports Orthodox Jewish School’s Request to Change Semi-Final Games Scheduled for Jewish Sabbath (February 26, 2012 )

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has sent a letter to Edd Burleson,  Director of the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) encouraging him to allow Robert M. Beren Academy to play in the semi-finals of the statewide AA  boys basketball tournament for private and parochial schools.

The semi-final games are scheduled to be played on March 2 and March 3, during the Jewish Sabbath, and that would preclude the Beren Academy team from competing.  Participation would violate Jewish law and tradition which dictates Jews refrain from a range of activities including traveling other than walking, working, cooking, using electronics and appliances and engaging in competitive sports on the Sabbath.

“ADL recognizes that many of the private and parochial schools with TAPPS membership are faith-based institutions where religion is an extremely significant part of the education process and the lives of students who attend, “ said Martin B. Cominsky, ADL Southwest Regional Director.

“We are hopeful the leadership of TAPPS will keep that in mind when making a decision about Beren Academy’s request for a change in the semi-final schedule, and will make that change accordingly.”

No matter how it turns out… we’re told that one Beren player, junior Zach Yoshor, can add his name to JTA’s blog post on players on Jewish teams who have dunked in an actual game. But we’re waiting for some game film before making it official.

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