Islamic Group Supports Jewish School Teams' Plea Over Sabbath

A Jewish school's plea for basketball playoff games to be scheduled at times other than the Jewish Sabbath got support Thursday from an Islamic civil rights group.

"In a nation as religiously diverse as America, it is important that we all make the extra effort to accommodate the beliefs and practices of others," said Amina Rubin, communications coordinator for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "Student athletes should not be forced to choose between their faith and participation in sports."

Herzl/Rocky Mountain Hebrew Academy CEO Avi Halzel said he appreciated the support.

Before Thursday night games, the Denver academy faced the prospect of qualifying for a regional championship game but not being able to play. The boys' regional game was scheduled for Saturday, March 8, but the school's religious beliefs prohibit students from playing between sundown Friday and sundown Saturday.

The Colorado High School Activities Association, which governs sports and other high school activities, had said the school could participate in playoff games at the district level if other schools agreed. The schools agreed.

CHSAA said that if "an additional change could have been made, it would have been done," but that it would be difficult to rearrange the schedule at the regional level. Officials declined to comment on the Islamic group's statement.

In an e-mail to member schools Thursday, CHSAA said seven other schools' travel arrangements and game preparation would be affected by moving a regional championship game past sundown Saturday, which also could mean more missed school time. Fifteen teams would be affected at the state tournament, it said.

The regional tournament has four games a day scheduled and the state tournament has eight games a day at one site. CHSAA said in the e-mail that facility contracts do not always allow for schedule changes.

Some state senators had publicly called for CHSAA to be more flexible Wednesday.

The CHSAA e-mail included a list of legislators that member schools could contact if they wanted.

The Anti-Defamation League planned to meet with CHSAA on Tuesday to ask it to re-evaluate its policies "to make them all inclusive for all athletes of the state," said Bruce H. DeBoskey, ADL mountain states regional director. DeBoskey said the meeting did not depend on whether Herzl/RMHA made it to the regional championship.