Wednesday, September 16, 2009

On Sports and Religion

Most of us know about Sandy Koufax's decision not to pitch Game 1 of the 1965 World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. His decision not to pitch is the classic example people mention when social pressures and personal beliefs conflict.

This year, the Jewish High Holy Day of Rosh Hashana falls out on Saturday and Sunday, 9/19 and 9/20. Yom Kippur begins at sundown on Sunday, 9/27. The remainder of the Jewish holiday "season" also falls on the weekend. I will write about the challenges this poses for me in a subsequent post. I want to devote this post to my thoughts towards how certain organizations have handled this challenge.

2 Examples of Poor Behavior

1) I came across an article yesterday about the Newton (MA) North Girls Cross-Country team choosing not to participate in a state-wide meet on Saturday because it conflicts with Rosh Hashana. When a local Rabbi e-mailed the organizer of the meet about this conflict, the organizer replied "we knew it was Rosh Hashana but didn't understand the significance of the day. The meet is scheduled and there is nothing we can do to reschedule."

First of all, I applaud the Newton North team for choosing not to participate. Second, I find the reply by the meet organizer appalling. I am sure that Newton North is not the only team with Jewish runners on the team. Would the meet organizer schedule a meet for Christmas or Easter? I don't think so! Most non-Jewish people that I interact with know that Rosh Hashana is a holy day for me. Public schools (at least in NYC) close for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. Saying that you can't reschedule the meet is, in my opinion, complete bullshit! If you don't know the significance of the day, educate yourself. There aren't many Jewish holidays on a standard calendar. It's there because it's important. This is just an example of the meet director being insensitive.

2) New York Road Runners scheduled the Queens Half Marathon for the second day of Rosh Hashana, 9/20. When I e-mailed them about this, I received a reply saying "we know it's Rosh Hashana but there is nothing we can do." Again, complete bullshit. They could have just as easily scheduled the race for the Sunday before, 9/13. Yes, there was a race scheduled for Saturday, 9/12 but it wouldn't be the first time NYRR has races on both days of the weekend. NYRR releases their race schedule for the entire year in January, surely they knew that 9/20 is Rosh Hashana. Shame on you NYRR!

2 Examples of Good Behavior
1) Major League Baseball and ESPN rescheduled a game on Sunday, 9/27 between the Yankees and Red Sox from 8:00 p.m. to 1:05 p.m. so it wouldn't conflict with Yom Kippur.

2) The New York Jets rescheduled their Sunday, 9/27 game from 4:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. so their Jewish fans could be home in time for the start of Yom Kippur.

Again, I applaud MLB, ESPN, and the New York Jets for understanding the significance of Yom Kippur and making every effort to accommodate their Jewish clientele.

If ESPN, MLB, and the Jets can navigate the complexities of scheduling, networks, and TV contracts to move games so they don't conflict with Yom Kippur, why can't a high school track meet or NYRR make similar decisions? Are you telling me that scheduling road races and high school track meets are more complex than professional sports? PUH-LEASE!

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