Texans are serious about sports. Decades after he stopped playing for the Dallas Cowboys, a friend of ours still attracts major attention when he walks through the hallways at DFW airport. It is reasonable to assume that Texans also treat high school basketball more earnestly than do citizens of other states. So when a religious Jewish high school in Houston recently was told to forfeit a tournament semifinal game if they wouldn’t violate their convictions and play on Friday night, the Jewish Sabbath, it was big news.
I’m pretty serious about politics. This past Saturday the WA State Republican caucus took place. I didn’t attend. For Sabbath observant Jews, a Saturday caucus always presents a number of difficulties, sometimes insurmountable ones. This past Shabbat it was even harder to overcome the obstacles. The Shabbat before Purim (Feast of Esther) includes a special reading from the Torah in synagogue, and while you can play “catch up” if you must, the preferred option is to hear it on Saturday morning.
I did not feel ‘offended’ or ‘excluded’ by the WA State caucus’ timing. Had I wanted to, months ago I could have contacted the State’s Republican Party offices and brought up the issue. The chairman, Kirby Wilbur, a friend and former radio colleague of my husband, is a great guy who taught two of my children in a homeschool co-op. Our family has been guests at his home for a spectacular Fourth of July fireworks exhibition. Had Sabbath-observant Jews brought the Saturday caucus problem to his attention, I have no doubts the party would have made accommodations for us, as a number of other states with Saturday voting have done.
Similarly, when a well-known department store runs a “one day sale” on Saturdays, which means I can’t take advantage of the special pricing, I basically shrug my shoulders. Whether you are a political organization, a business or a sports league, balancing your needs along with everyone else’s is impossible. You do the best you can and make adjustments when possible and reasonable.
Which is why I was disturbed by the way in which the Texas situation was resolved. In response to a lawsuit brought by the parents of some of the basketball players, a judge issued a ruling and the game was rescheduled. While on the surface this seems fair and equitable, in my view, it was an unfortunate outcome. As I see it, legal action tends to damage relationships. It is ever so much better when these things get resolved – even if it takes longer and there is short-term pain– by neighbors acting out of concern for each other. When people voluntarily make changes out of a desire to be inclusive, communities are strengthened. When the law forces accommodation it only emphasizes “otherness.” When courts get involved rigid lines are drawn which frequently end up causing unanticipated and more severe problems down the road.
I hope that in four years there will be a non-Saturday option for the WA State caucus. I wish the Beren Academy basketball team success in making the semifinals once again and for the scheduling to allow them to play. More than either of those outcomes, however, I wish for a less litigious society, where human relationships flourish and the legal system is called upon only rarely and in extreme cases.