Sabbath Holds Back Jewish Athlete In New Jersey

TEANECK, NJ (WCBS 880/CBS 2) – She has the skills, but Shabbas has left her without the scores.

WCBS 880’s Sean Adams reports from Bergen County

Because of the Jewish sabbath, 7-year-old gymnast Amalya Knapp of Teaneck missed Saturday’s  New Jersey state competition.

Her family is Orthodox and she performed Sunday, but it was too late to count her score toward an individual title.

Her mother Chavie told CBS 2’s Derricke Dennis the family would “have to forego” some competitions due to the cirumstances, but was not bitter.

“USA Gymnastics, from what I understand, has really been trying hard,” she told WCBS 880 reporter Sean Adams. “They allowed her to be ranked just on paper, even though her name didn’t call out, and that really made a difference to her and I really appreciated that.”

Amalya would have ranked fifth.

Assemblyman Gary Schaer has now joined the cause for the young gymnast.

Amalya’s mother feels a dialogue has been opened and serious questions are being asked about how to make youth sports more accommodating for all.

What do you think of the issue? Should athletic organizations accommodate competitors’ religious customs or are those customs obsolete in the 21st century? Let us know by leaving a comment below!

More from Sean Adams
  • Josh Wachtenheim

    This girl’s father is my vice principal!

  • Eric Jahnke

    Typical left-wing, God-less evil media … the Sabbath never holds anyone back, but you wicked people know nothing of faith.

  • johnny

    How is this even news?

  • Hot00Stuff

    Religion is a bunch of hog wash. If you want to let a bunch of fairy tales that were perpetrated on the public thousands of years ago control your life, than i truly pity you.

  • samuel cohen

    My daughter Ariella,a 10 year old Orthodox Jew, also competed on Sunday at the state gymnastics in Cresskill. Ariella was scheduled to compete on Saturday and due to our Sabbath observance was unable to compete for a medal. Elite Gymnastics in Hawthorne NJ along with USA gymnastics were very helpful and accomodating in making arrangements for her to atleast participate in the Sunday events. I appreciated their efforts. While my daughter was initially very upset, we found that it was a great educational opportunity for her. She was not going to participate in an important event because there was something that we hold very dear and she was sacrificing for that noble cause. She then took a certain pride in her sacrifice and seemed to enjoy the Sunday event immensely. She scored a 36.75 which was her highest score ever. In the end she would have placed 9th overall in the State for level 4 10yr olds and would have received 4 medals. I feel that the lesson learned will stay with her for a long time and far outweighs the medals she would have placed on her shelf. Ariella’s Dad Samuel

    • Paige

      Arielle DID do very well! I agree that there will be times in life when we will have to make difficult choices. I also know that Ariella stayed until the end of the medal ceremony even though she knew she would not receive one. That speaks to an even higher level of integrity and sportsmanship then many gold medal winners I have seen. I am sure you are very proud of her :) Great job Ariella! God was on each event with you!

    • Constance

      What a good Dad! You have set an excellent example of how to emotionally “deal” with all the curve balls that life will throw at your daughter in her life. You have allowed her to not compromise her relgious beliefs and still participate in the sport she loves. Although she probably would have enjoyed bringing home the medals, she has been allowed to know that life sometimes requires choices and she was able to compromise and do both instead of feeling like she had no choice and did not have an option. When she is older and has to make hard choices like Grandpa’s 90th birthday (which she has to attend) or front row tickets to her favorite band the same day; she will already have the life experience to know how to make these kind of choices, even when they are hard to make. How you handled this should be an example of how all families handle these type of scheduling conflicts…in all, it shouldn’t be about religous differences, just as many Christians have the same conflict for Sunday meets too and those are choices they also have to make.

  • USAG parent

    When should the meets be held? During the week? For one religion Friday nights are not good, for another Saturday is no good, for another Sunday is not good. How about Tuesday would that work for everyone? I know it won’t work for all of the children that are in school and trying to get an education. It is unfortunate but sometimes a girl has to miss because of a family obligation that is not religious – should they start to accomodate them too? Where will it end.

    If this was so important the request should have been made to USAG before the meet was scheduled. The coach should have told you this might happen. Then maybe it could have been resolved before taking it to the media and making such an issue of the situation.

  • Enough Already

    No sympathy from this camp – time to assimilate into the American community like all others before.
    If not, move to Israel where the little girl can practice all she wants on Sunday. Man, such whiners. Why does my local news have to cover such dribble, when there are more important issues out there affecting Americans.

  • Dan Te

    What happens if a pregnant jewish woman’s due date falls on a Saturday?

    • Peter Yurowitz

      She goes to the hospital and gives birth.

  • badman

    most of all, I regret that this little girl will miss out on so many opportunities in her life because her family places these limits on her. that’s religion for you, folks. arbitrary rules just because someone else said so. stupid.

    • USAG parent

      When should the meets be held? During the week? For one religion Friday nights are not good, for another Saturday is no good, for another Sunday is not good. How about Tuesday would that work for everyone? I know it won’t work for all of the children that are in school and trying to get an education. It is unfortunate but sometimes a girl has to miss because of a family obligation that is not religious – should they start to accomodate them too? Where will it end.

      If this was so important the request should have been made to USAG before the meet was scheduled. The coach should have told you this might happen. Then maybe it could have been resolved before taking it to the media and making such an issue of the situation.

  • verbatim

    says you.

  • Chaya

    In Junior-High my classmates increasingly pushed me to join the basketball team. I finally tried out in 10th grade – passed the first, second and third cuts. 2 days before the 4th and final cut I was walking to a synagogue youth group meeting, slipped on the ice in the driveway and broke my arm! As a result I put more time into my studies and youth group and in 12th grade was president of my youth group. I fiully recognize now that G-d Himself saved me from joining such a materialistic life, even if it were to last only 3 years. Now it is 30 years later and what a great and wonderful difference that broken arm made! “Everything is for the good” but sometimes hardships actually make things better. Amalya – BE STRONG and DON’T MAKE AVIROS on Shabbat! You shall be strong enough to repel that, and not plummet into such a materialistic life. You shall succeed in all you want to acceomplish because you have Emunat HaShem and have the ability to focus on your Ratzon.

  • mariel mcdonald

    Actually, she can participate in the gymnastics as long as she walks to the arena and doesn’t turn on lights or other “work” prohibitions of the Sabbath. Physical exertion not in the realm of work is permitted.
    Don’t religious kids jump and run around on the Sabbath? They do after going to shul and some even run all around the shul as well during prayers.
    All the kid has to do is stay in someone’s house or an hotel near the arena, have her gear in the arena before the start of the Sabbath, then show up, change and do her thing.
    Of course, the Hasidim won’t agree with me because they like to kill all enjoyment in life that isn’t connected to their perverse life style.

    • verbatim

      The definition of work on the Sabbath isn’t just physical exertion. While that may be incorporated in to some of the definitions of Sabbath work, that is only part of it. “Work” is all the activities and tangentially related activities that went into building and maintaining the Second Temple.

      As for your insulting another person’s lifestyle without knowing: (1) that’s not very open minded of you; (2) you’re entitled to your opinion.

  • Hazel Mpofu

    Sabbath day is holy and a day of rest. The Bible says so On it now work should be done, sport is work.I salute Chavie for faithfully observing God’s day of rest and worship.

  • oman

    If you belong to a religious minority, then you have to adapt especially if you know the schedules before hand. Not really a big deal – just choose.

  • a mom

    As a mother who has raised children who participated in competitive sports, I can feel the anguish of practicing a religion and having to make the decisions that would need to be made. Fortunately, in America, we have the right to choose the activities we want to participate in – including our religious services. I have found that a balance is important – faith, sports, education, social, etc. Because of all the choices that are available today, it is important to remember that there are only 24 hrs. a day and only 7 days in a week – and there are alot of activities that need to get packed into that limited time – but, don’t expect gymnastics, football, baseball, ballet events to be able to accomodate. The organization, however, should definately grant the points and recognition this young lady deserves.

  • grace

    As a parent of a USAG gymnast who has orthodox jewiish team mates… Competitions are scheduled on Friday,Saturday and Sundays therefore it is the CHOICE of the gymnast and her parents whether to participate. Gymnasts regardless of their religion have to make this choice. We’ve seen that gymnasts have not been able to compete due to the Sabbath, Reconciliation or even First Communion. The coverage should be on the good work these young gymnast do and how we have massive cuts in athletics and education.

  • Peter Yurowitz

    I would ask the question in reverse. Why would the organizers of an athletic competition not want the best athletes to be recognized? If there is a Jewish, or Moslem athlete competing that excels in their sport, would it not make sense to nurture them and encourage them to continue in their quest for recognition and improvement? A participant observing their religious holiday is not using the time for further conditioning or practice. Why should their individual scores not be counted when they return to the competition?

    • Joe

      Nuture them? The same way retail stores and corporate environments nuture Christians by outlawing “Merry Christmas?” If you mean that kind of nurturing then yes.

    • John

      You have to be kiddding!!!!! perhaps we should not have events on Sunday beacuse of the Christians… or friday because of the muslims. and since both of the Sabbath for Muslims and Jews start at sundown there won’t be any events after sundown. and is that only on the Sabbath? what days of worhsip that occur during the week? should we stop all events on those days too. THIS INSANITY HAS TO STOP!!!!! No one can be accomnodated at every.

  • ItsOK2bfrum

    Evan as a Sabbath observant Jew, I agree that the world does not need to accommodate our religious needs. This is part of the choice we make in being observant and its true in many other aspects of our observance besides Sabbath observance.

    But I don’t understand the need for such snarky comments. I wouldn’t go so far as to call them antisemitic, but there are ways to intelligently voice your opinion without castigating a whole segment of people or being so unabashedly hateful.

  • Dan Te

    My Jewish friends eat pork…and claims to be religious…

  • Susan

    Yes, athletic organizations need to become sensitive to the needs of religious people. i am appalled by some of the comments left here. I find them to be anti-semetic. Sportsmanship is about respecting and accommodating for people because of their differences. If we were all the same, life would be so boring.

  • Tom Zucker-Scharff

    I agree with Kris. You notice this event and most others didn’t take place during Mass, or even on Sunday. I admit right up front that I don’t know a lot about it, but I see this all the time. My daughter had a national exam scheduled on Passover, notice not on Christmas or Easter.

    • gym mom

      The event was both Saturday AND Sunday. What you don’t see in this piece is that the meet started at 8am Saturday and went through the last session on Sunday ending at 7:30pm. Girls came from all over the State. Everyone had to follow the schedule. Each age group had a scheduled time so that the girls can compete at the same time as other girls in their age group. All coaches are aware that the State Meet is Friday evening through Sunday. They know the dates well in advance. They compete all season in order to get to that point. Many meets throughout the season are held on Saturdays. This is their first year so maybe they didn’t know – but the coaches should have told them.

    • Fran

      I believe the article said she did perform on Sunday.



  • Doreen

    Stuff happens on Saturday. Deal with it. Can’t expect the world to stop on Saturday just because it does for you.

    • brax

      If u don’t have nothin good to say, dont say a word at all.. plz… we will hunt you if u continue sayin things like that… I promise u.. u won’t regret!!! we worship on saturdays and we consider it holy. plz, have some respect!

    • Herb

      My whole life things have stopped on Sunday because of Christian beliefs not common sense. Face we live in a country that nis driven by Christian Doctrine and that’s the way it is. Right or wrong.

  • Frank Rizzo

    I thought this article was going to be about Ozzy. ?

    Frank Rizzo

    • argyle

      Me too :) I thought this was news on Sabbath’s summer tour!

  • Kris

    Jews take religion way too seriously? If this was a christian family, Bill Donohue would have had a billboard blasting USA Gymnastics, there would have been hundreds more comments about this article, and you can bet the LAST thing the mother would have said was “and I really appreciated that”.

    No, you ALL take religion way too seriously.

  • Mr. Armenia

    Orthodoz Jews take religion way too serious.

    • C.J.

      My comment was deleted. Too many sensitive people. I totally agree with you.

    • George

      Hey Benson…. your ignorance is showing as well as your racism and prejudice. You must be very lonely.

    • Abe Benesch

      Yup. Check out the Hasidic community of Kiryas Joel, NY. They are extremists. Anyone who drives the Palisades Interstate Pkwy down to the GWB has seen their minivans weaving between both lanes.

      • Joe

        Abe, ive seen them reading Torah as they are driving. NO lie. They are always broken down on the side of the road too fixing flat tires. What’s the deal with that?

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