Jewish Basketball, Texas Stupidity & Hank Greenberg

Hank Greenberg would be proud. The Beren Academy boys’ basketball team stands to forfeit their semi-final game on Friday because the game is scheduled after the start of the Jewish Sabbath. Beren, an Orthodox Jewish day school in the Houston area, will be knocked out of the championship tournament because the team refuses to violate their religious beliefs by playing on the Sabbath.  

It seems that the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS), will hold fast to their “rules” which prevent tournaments from being rescheduled.  An appeal by Beren to have the game rescheduled was unanimously rejected by the TAPPS’ Board. Could the Board’s vote be construed as anti-semetic, given that Beren is the only Jewish school among the 58 schools in TAPPS. Of the other 57, only 6 are non-Christian. Why would TAPPS’ inflexibility exhibited toward the only Jewish school possibly give rise to questions of anti-Semitism? Perhaps because the excuses emanating from TAPPS’ Executive Director, Ed Burelson, don’t seem to add up.

Mr. Burelson cites TAPPS’ “long-standing policy not to change the playoffs date — a rule that has been in place since  TAPPS’ inception in 1978” — as the reason why Beren’s request for rescheduling their game was denied. There are at least two problems with that answer. First, the policy that Burleson falls back on is apparently not that hard and fast. Just last year, a Seventh Day Adventist school’s soccer semi-final playoff game was rescheduled to avoid a conflict of playing on the Sabbath (which is Saturday for Adventists). Second, the Executive Director — which would be Mr. Burelson — actually has the authority, per TAPPS’ By-Laws, to reschedule games:

“If it appears not to be feasible to hold a contest at the scheduled place or time because of weather, facilities, or other cause (emphasis added), the Director shall determine where, when, or if the contest will be held.” (TAPPS’ By-Laws, Sub-Chapter J — Contests, Section 75 — Rescheduling Contests)

It would appear that Executive Director Burelson, irrespective of the Board’s vote, would have the power to reschedule the Beren basketball game for “other causes.”  Some might argue that rescheduling because of one school’s objection to playing on the Sabbath is simply not sufficient to justify the Executive Director acting. Well, how about Mr. Burelson fulfilling his responsibilities, among which are:

“to take such other, further, and reasonable actions that are necessary or desirable under and consistent with . . . the TAPPS Constitution, By-Laws, and Contest Rules”

If the TAPPS’ Board of Directors and Executive Director want to uphold the spirit of their own Constitution, they would do well to reacquint themselves with the purpose found in that document:

“The Purpose of TAPPS is and shall be to organize, to stimulate, to encourage and to promote the academic, athletic and fine arts programs in an effort to foster a spirit of fair play, good fellowship, true sportsmanship and wholesome competition for boys and girls.” (TAPPS’ Constitution)

How much more wholesome can TAPPS get than to encourage its member schools to stay true to their core values and principles, particularly when those values and principles have a religious foundation? And, wouldn’t “fostering a spirit of fair play” and demonstrating “good fellowship” necessitate TAPPS taking reasonable actions to accommodate the religious beliefs and practices of its member schools, even if the school’s religion was Judaism and not Christianity?

In a culture that not only despises people of faith (except if you have a certain other faith associated with the Middle East that is not called Judaism or Christianity), but which seems to celebrate every deviant sports’ figure, wouldn’t it be refreshing to see adults encourage young people to live out wholesome principles, particularly those principles which are rooted in a Judeo-Christian ethic? You would think the answer to that question would be yes, especially if the adults in question were primarily from a Christian background (some  even from a Baptist background, which makes this sad given Baptists’ historic advocacy of religious freedom for all groups). But, alas, you would be wrong, at least in the case of TAPPS.

What would happen if one of TAPP’s 51 Christian schools had a championship game scheduled for the Christian Sabbath — Sunday? Would the team forfeit the game rather than violate their principles? Luckily for the non-Jewish schools of TAPPS, they will never have to face that question because no games or activities of any kind are ever scheduled for a Sunday. Sadly, from my own observations, the answer to that question wouldn’t matter anyway. It seems that far too many “Christian” athletes and parents almost always put sports ahead of religious values and principles, even above worship on Sundays. Perhaps we could learn a thing or two from our Jewish brethren who demonstrated that some things are more important than playing basketball. This one’s for Hank:


Came Yom Kippur

A Hank Greenberg Poem

Author: Edgar Guest ©. Published: 1934. Appeared In: Detroit Free Press

“Came Yom Kippur — holy fast day world wide over to the Jew,

And Hank Greenberg to his teaching and the old tradition true

Spent the day among his people and he didn’t come to play.

Said Murphy to Mulrooney, ‘We shall lose the game today!

We shall miss him on the infield and shall miss him at the bat

But he’s true to his religion — and I honor him for that!'”

Came Yom Kippur A Hank Greenberg Poem by Edgar Guest


9 comments for “Jewish Basketball, Texas Stupidity & Hank Greenberg

  1. February 29, 2012 at 7:57 AM

    I wish more Baptists had similar respect for their day of worship.

    You might expect this from a secular organization, but from a predominantly Christian group? This is particularly disheartening in light of the current attack on religious liberties.

    But beyond religious respect (or tolerance), whatever happened to simple, common courtesy?

    • February 29, 2012 at 8:16 AM


      I agree. I don’t know about in Virginia, but here in NM, Wednesday nights are lost to school and sporting events. The Christian school that my wife teaches at and my three boys attend even rescheduled my oldest son’s basketball game on a Wednesday night. I told them that this was acceptable and should not be done in the future. Sundays are even being lost, with kids involved in two-day events and competitions and even some practices and games which are now scheduled on Sundays. I really don’t blame the kids for wanting to play — I blame the parents for not taking a stand and saying, “Not on Sunday!” That a predominantly Christian organization would not understand the importance of Sabbath worship — even if it wasn’t “their” Sabbath — is sad indeed. Thanks for stopping by. Hope you have a blessed day in ministry! God bless,


  2. Hugh
    February 29, 2012 at 8:43 AM

    So what will the kids be doing on Friday night during the time that they are not compromising their beliefs? Playing video games?

    • February 29, 2012 at 8:50 AM


      I can’t speak for those Jewish students, but I would expect behavior consistent with their values and principles, not hypocrisy as you imply in your comment. That maybe what “Christians” would do instead, but my experience with my conservative/orthodox best friend in college, who was Sabbath observant and kept Kosher, was that he did try to observe the Sabbath through worship attendance and by what he did not do (i.e., watch television or play video games). Maybe it would be better to encourage the kids and their parents in trying not to compromise their beliefs, even if we understand that they (nor we) will always do it perfectly. Of course, that’s why Jesus Christ came to die on the cross — the perfect substitutionary sacrifice for our sins — so that we would be free from the law and saved by grace through faith. From law to grace — kind of has a nice ring to it 🙂 Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment today. God bless,


      • Hugh
        February 29, 2012 at 11:51 AM

        I understand. My cynicism of the nature of high school boys is showing.

    • CL
      February 29, 2012 at 1:59 PM

      They will be in synagogue praying and then at home enjoying a festive meal with their families. Then they will either read, play board games or go to sleep. The use of electronics is not allowed on Shabbat.

      • HUgh
        March 1, 2012 at 1:23 PM

        Yes, I’m sure they will.

  3. Job
    February 29, 2012 at 10:55 AM

    Pastor Scott:

    I am sorry, but rather than claiming that this was “anti-Semitic” or any other form of bigotry, I am more inclined to state that if one wants to join an organization and receive its benefits, that person or entity should do so with the expectation of adhering to its rules and general norms. As this is a private organization, this school should not expect to receive special accommodations to their religion because they are Jews. If the organization chooses to accommodate them, fine, but there should be no burden to do so on the organization or expectation of it by any member.

    And I totally reject the “Judeo-Christian” thing. Christianity is the true religion that worships and glorifies Christ. Judaism is a false religion that denies, despises and rejects Jesus Christ. What Romans 11:7-8 says is true: the Jews have been blinded, and moreover they have been blinded by God. Now all Israel will be saved, but that will only happen when the great commission is fulfilled according to Romans 11:25. Until then, like all other false religions, Jews are enemies of the gospel; are literally anti-Christ according to 1 John 2:18-23, 1 John 4:1-7, and 2 John 1:7-11. We know that those who practice this Jewish religion are not exempt from those texts, because the context specifically (though not solely) includes them, just as it does in Revelation 2:9 and 3:9. Thus “Judeo-Christian” makes as much sense as “Muslim-Christian” or “Hindu-Christian” because it represents an attempt to mix the truth with a lie; to place those who worship Christ in unity with those who reject Him; to place that which God has declared to be holy intermingled with that which is profane, corrupt and worldly instead of keeping the two separate.

    “Perhaps we could learn a thing or two from our Jewish brethren …”

    No we can’t. And Jews are not our brethren. At least no more so than Muslims and atheists are. Now of course, Romans 11 and elsewhere in scripture declares that Jews are our brethren according to our election; that Jews are the original branch and we are grafted in. But in terms of their false religion, practices, superstitions etc. we cannot and should not learn a thing from them, and the Bible says so in Titus 1:14, Titus 3:9, 1 Timothy 1:4 and 4:6 etc. Can we learn from the Muslim practice of Ramadan and praying 5 times a day? Or the fact that Hindus “speak in tongues” (seriously, they do) or their fasting rituals? The only reason why Jews are so attached to the Sabbath is because they reject the fact that the Jesus Christ fulfills and is our Sabbath according to Hebrews 4. So, you want the Christians in this private organization to be compelled to respect the lies of the Jews against the truth that is Jesus Christ? Were this of the government, then Jews would receive protections under the First Amendment, along with the Muslims, Hindus, Wiccans, Mormons, Catholics, atheists and all the other abominations, because you join up with the state you have to play by their rules. But one of the main reasons why private organizations SHOULD exist is because the state can’t force them to accept the false claim that Christianity and any other false religion or ideology (including Judaism) are equal and therefore deserve equal respect and accommodation derived from it.

    “In a culture that not only despises people of faith (except if you have a certain other faith associated with the Middle East that is not called Judaism or Christianity)”

    Please provide where this group accommodates the demands of Muslims. But even if they do … they’re a private group. Private groups have the right to discriminate, and should exercise that right. Jewish groups (charities etc.) do exist, and I would presume that they wouldn’t want to have to accommodate the demands that any Neo-Nazis would impose.

    “First, the policy that Burleson falls back on is apparently not that hard and fast.”

    Burleson has the right to exercise his discretion as he sees fit. If he used that discretion to accommodate Seventh Day Adventists but not Jews, that is his discretion. Playing the anti-Semitism card because he did not is inappropriate. The idea that Christians should want him to based on anything that Jews and Christians allegedly share – as if Jews and Christians are somehow theological allies – is an utter falsehood.

    • February 29, 2012 at 11:18 AM


      First, I didn’t say that what Burelson and TAPPS did was anti-semetic. I think it was stupid and contrary to their stated purpose, but they have every right to be stupid. I would defend their right to exercise their discrestion, but it seems that they want it both ways. TAPPS is free to be hypocritical all they want, particularly when there is not the slightest possibility of Christian schools having to choose whether or not to play on Sunday. You would think that a predominently Christian organization would applaud those who wanted to show reverence for the Sabbath.

      As to your theological rant (and that’s about as kind a word as I can use), I think you and I shall have to agree to disagree on the strong language that you employ to describe Judaism in general and “Jews” in particular. I think your language (I hope unintentionally) could be perceived as bordering on anti-semetic itself. Please do not misunderstand me to say that you are anti-semetic, but please review the language that you used to convey your opinions. While I agree that it is only through faith in Jesus Christ and His atoning work on the cross that saves, I believe it is a mistake to categorize Judaism with Islam and Hinduism, particularly in the way that you did.

      Lastly, to say that we can learn “nothing” from our Jewish brethren (used in a colloquial sense, not a theological sense) is absurd on its face and offensive. And, while not all my Jewish friends could be considered “brothers-in-Christ,” I can assure you that I have Jewish brethren that I would defend with my life and my sacred honor. Thanks and God bless,


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