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International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

Religion on the Court– How the High Holidays Have Affected the Volleyball Season

The Girls Varsity Volleyball team huddling during a game. The team had games scheduled on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur this season. (Courtesy of Patrick Kaufmann)
The Girls Varsity Volleyball team huddling during a game. The team had games scheduled on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur this season. (Courtesy of Patrick Kaufmann)

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are two of the holiest days in Judaism. Both take place in the fall and often coincide with fall sports games. This has resulted in Jewish players at WIS being forced to choose between honoring their religion and competing with their team. This places both the players and their teams in difficult positions. 

During the fall 2023 season, the Girls Varsity Volleyball and Girls Varsity Soccer teams had games scheduled on the High Holidays Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. However, WIS cancelled the volleyball game on Yom Kippur at the request of the team. 

“Even though it is no fault of our coach or [Director of Athletics Floreal Pedrazo], it is frustrating to feel like you are either disappointing your team or your family,” senior and volleyball captain Jenna Loescher-Clark said. She stressed the difficulty of this dilemma as a Jewish student.  

Upper school history teacher Nora Brennan, who is also Jewish, reinforces Loescher-Clark’s sentiment. “I would not let my own children go participate in a game on the High Holidays,” she said. Though she emphasizes the importance of recognizing the High Holidays, Brennan acknowledges that Jewish student-athletes at WIS are a minority.

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As this issue centers around scheduling, Pedrazo is an important figure. Pedrazo says that balance, availability and days off in the school calendar are factors taken into account when choosing dates for games and practices. However, since Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are not days off from school, they were not considered when choosing these dates. This, however, does not oblige Jewish players to attend the games. “If students come in and say, ‘Hey, we have a religious holiday [we can’t attend],’ participating in sports is voluntary,” Pedrazo said. 

Another complication arises when this scheduling conflict jeopardizes the team’s chance of winning. During the Rosh Hashanah game on Sept. 15 against the Model School for the Deaf, the Girl’s Varsity Volleyball team only had 1 middle hitter present as they were all out for Rosh Hashana. This game was lost. 

Director of Marketing and Communications Kimberly Bennett is in charge of compiling the WIS calendar after a series of meetings with members of the administration. This year, Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah were both on this master schedule. “We’re pretty careful about not scheduling Back-to-School Nights during Rosh Hashanah [and] Yom Kippur, and other evening events,” Bennett said. However, she also noted that athletics was not on the administration’s radar.

As a result, despite being on the schedule, games are not prohibited from being played on these holidays. Yet, this may be subject to change, after having this issue brought to her attention. “It’s a good thought for the future,” Bennett said.

Efforts to better the system will progress in the future. “As an international school, we have definitely made moves to improve our inclusivity,” Loescher-Clark said. “However, I think there is still some room to grow.”

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Martina Tognato Guáqueta, Photographer/Fact-Checker
Hi I’m Martina. I am a senior at WIS as well as Head Photographer and Fact-Checker for Dateline. I have been working at Dateline for four years as a photographer and staff writer. I tend to cover stories across a diverse range of topics. Outside from Dateline you can find me in the theater or yelling action behind the camera. 

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