Yakima, Wash.--To onlookers, the Northwest Yeshiva girl's basketball game this afternoon started out like any other game. They suited up, went out on the court to shake hands with their opponents from St. John-Endicott…then they went home.
The team decided to forfeit their chance at the WIAA state championships rather than break their day of religious fasting. The "Fast of Esther" forbids observers from eating or drinking anything from sun up to sun down. It does not restrict playing sports, but the team felt it would not be safe to play a basketball game without any food or water in their systems. And since the game was scheduled for 12:30pm, the team would have also had to wait for hours after the game before eating or drinking anything.
According to the school's lawyer Sim Osbourne, when they received the bracket schedule, Northwest Yeshiva requested that the WIAA postpone their game until after sundown. They even went as far as to offer to pay for another venue to host the rescheduled game. However the WIAA chose not to accommodate them.
Rachel Greenberg, mother of a sophomore on the team said, "We were willing to do whatever it took. Our girls worked really hard to get where they are and I don't think they got a fair shot."
Although the school's lawyer was involved in the situation, he says they have no plans to pursue legal action against the WIAA. Osbourne says, "this is a life lesson for the girls, sometimes standing up for what you believe in requires sacrifice".
The Northwest Yeshiva players would not comment on whether or not they felt the decision was just and did not say anything negative about the WIAA. They only admitted that they were disappointed but were glad they had gotten the opportunity to play in the state championships. As a young team, they aspire to be back at the championships next year.
When asked why the team's religious practices were not accommodated, WIAA Executive Director Mike Colbrese had this to say, "We have a 52 game tournament with 32 teams and its difficult to reschedule the tournament to accommodate that request." The WIAA emphasizes that while they did not recognize this Jewish holy day, they do accommodate the Sabbath so if the game had been on Friday they would have rescheduled it.
The Northwest Yeshiva Girl's Basketball team may also face sanctions for forfeiting the game. They did however make history as the first Jewish Girls basketball team to make it to the state championship tournament.
What do you think? Was the WIAA justified in not rescheduling the game so the team could observe the Jewish holiday? Do you support the team's decision to stick to their beliefs and fast for the day? Should the team have fasted but played anyway? Should accommodations be made so teams can adhere to the tenants of their faith? Let us know.