I grew up hearing stories of early 20th century Jewish immigrants to America–my great-grandparent’s generation–and the inspiringly impressive sacrifices they made in the name of sustaining their religious fidelity. One particularly common motif was the Jew who, desperate to simply feed his family, would each week seek out employment wherever and however he could, only to be fired after refusing to work on the sabbath–and so the cycle would repeat, week after week.
It’s a problem that has largely gone away, but these stories came to mind when I read about a Jewish high school basketball team in Houston which was recently forced to forfeit the state semi-final game due to its having been scheduled for after sundown on Friday evening. It’s hardly a tragedy–the world will presumably endure regardless of Beren Academy’s basketball fortunes–nor does it appear to be anyone’s fault; it would be nice if accommodations could be made for this sort of thing, but it’s also perfectly understandable that an organization can’t always be expected to bend over backwards. And, as the basketball association put it, the Jewish team understood that full well when they joined the organization.
What I did take from the story is a simple appreciation for the team’s faithfulness, the admirably clear ordering of their priorities, and the dignity with which they conducted themselves in a frustrating clash between their religious commitments and the vagaries of participation in public life. “The sacred mission will trump excellence in the secular world,” said the school’s principal. Their forbears would be proud.
The full story, as reported in the New York Times, can be found here.