On Friday just before the Sabbath Bassie Orzechowitz a senior at Weinbaum Yeshiva High SchoolBoca Raton, tied for first in the three-point championship semi-finals. The finals were before to take place at 6:15 just before the class 6A finals game. Because of her observance of the Jewish Sabbath she could not get their before 7:05. The simple solution would have been to move the 3-point finals to AFTER the game. Not only did Jack Watford refuse but he wouldn’t poll the other competitors if they were cool with that move. in In an era where we are considering Muslim Footbaths in schools, what is so wrong with moving a competition from before a basketball game to after, just to allow Jewish students to observe the Sabbath.
Observance of Sabbath costs Yeshiva athlete shot at title By ANDREW ABRAMSON and LONA O’CONNORLAKELAND — Despite tying for first place in the semifinals of the Queen of the Hill three-point shooting competition Friday, Bassie Orzechowitz won’t be competing in today’s finals.That’s because Orzechowitz, a senior at Weinbaum Yeshiva High School in Boca Raton, will be observing the Jewish Sabbath. The basketball competition begins at 6:15 p.m., and the Sabbath ends at sundown – 6:18 p.m. Orzechowitz is staying 45 minutes away from the Lakeland Center and won’t be able to make it to the arena in time.
Jack Watford, associate director of the Florida High School Athletic Association, would not change the time of today’s all-classification championship to accommodate Orzechowitz.”We did not feel it was appropriate,” he said when asked whether he considered asking the other competitors about a time change.Sarasota Christian’s Heather Miller and Orzechowitz each made 5-of-15 three-point baskets in the Class 1A semifinals. Orzechowitz was allowed to shoot Friday afternoon before leaving the gym to prepare for the Sabbath, which began at sundown. Miller later tied her.FHSAA rules call for a tiebreaker to determine the winner, but because Orzechowitz was not present, the association declared the girls co-champions. Both will receive championship plaques.Watford said he left a message on Orzechowitz’s cellphone informing her of the decision, but she observes rules that prevent her from using the phone during the Sabbath. She left the Lakeland Center on Friday knowing that if she won the semifinals, the FHSAA likely would not alter the time. She had pleaded with the association to alter its time for the three-point shooting competition. Yeshiva High asked the FHSAA to hold the competition after the Class 6A state championship game, scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.Orzechowitz also suggested that she shoot after the 6A championship game. Watford did not agree with that idea.”We don’t feel that would be fair to the other girls who have to compete in a loud arena where fans are there,” he said. “She would be able to shoot in an empty gym by herself.”Instead, Miller will compete today with the five champions from the other classifications.”All we asked is for them to move it a couple of hours,” Orzechowitz said after her afternoon performance. “There’s a lot of options, and they refused to compromise. I won’t compromise my religion to play.”She was visibly disappointed after hitting only a third of her three-point attempts. She sat on the sidelines with her head in her jersey.”I’ve been attacked by so many people, getting phone calls from all over. It’s been a total shock,” she said. “If we all get this far, we all deserve to have a chance.”Melissa Pereira, who oversees athletics at Yeshiva High, said she did not understand the FHSAA’s decision.”They have a basketball game going on from 7 o’clock until 8:30, and it’s not really going out of their way to ask this three-point shootout to occur after the basketball game,” Pereira said. “It is unfortunate that they have decided to make a stance and to not allow this 17- year-old girl the opportunity to be the state champion.”Pereira said Yeshiva High has worked with the FHSAA in the past, including a compromise that allowed boys basketball players to wear yarmulkes with built-in clips.But she said the decision not to push back the three-point competition has larger ramifications.”It’s bigger than this one student,” Pereira said. “What happens if one of our teams advances to the regional or state playoffs? I can’t imagine how devastating it would be for a team not to be able to participate. But again they would put religion first.”FHSAA rules prohibit any high school sports activity, including practices, on Sundays. Executive Director John Stewart said it was completely coincidental that Sunday is the Sabbath for most Christians.Even if Orzechowitz does not become Queen of the Hill, her performance in the three-point contest has been a crowning moment for Yeshiva High’s girls basketball team. The Storm finished 14-6 this season and won a national tournament for Hebrew schools.The 198-student private school, founded 11 years ago in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Boca Raton, follows the practices of Orthodox Judaism, including religious practices for food preparation, prayers and other daily activities. Even candy bars in the school’s vending machines carry the kosher symbol.