Shabbat-observant Jewish Academy faces TKO by high school sports association.
llison Shatz of the Jewish Academy of Metro-
politan Detroit (JAMD) was denied a chance
to swim in the Oakland County swim meet
last week. And to a lesser extent, so were her relay
teammates — from Royal Oak Shrine Catholic High
JAIVID's golf team cannot participate in the state
regionals this weekend, and every other JAMD athlete
will not be allowed to compete in state tournaments
because of the decision of the Michigan High School
Athletic Association (MHSAA) to deny JAMD mem-
bership in the group.
The MHSAA says it cannot change the annual con-
tract each member school must sign. It requires the
schools to abide by MHSAA scheduling requirements.
Last spring, JAMD won a court injunction after its
baseball team qualified for the state tournament. The
school was then an MHSAA member. The team won
its first district game, and the injunction allowed their
second game, scheduled for Saturday, to be played on
"The sanctity of their schedule," said Larry Garon,
president of JAMD, "is more important to them than
the inclusion of all kids." He said the MHSAA deci-
sion violates the court injunction, the U.S. Constitu-
tion and Michigan law.
Allison Shatz and three other JAMD female swim-
mers effectively had their season ended with the
MHSAA decision. Rabbi Lee Buckman, JAMD head
of school, said the four JAMD students combined with
Shrine High students to form a girls' swim team this
season. But the JAMD students had to leave the team
because it cannot be composed of MHSAA-member
athletes and non-member athletes.
"When we first started this co-op team with Shrine,
I was absolutely thrilled, because that's what I always
The Jewish Academy of Metropolitan Detroit and
Shrine Catholic High School and Academy in Royal
Oak had a unique relationship this swim season.
The schools combined to form a girls' swim team.
JAMD had four female swimmers and Shrine had
19. The combined team practiced at Ferndale High.
Last weekend, the Shrine girls participated in the
Oakland County meet without their JAMD team-
mates. Without JAMD's Allison Shatz, Shrine
entered individual events and two relay teams.
According to Coach Aaron Smith, with Allison they
also would have entered the 4x100 freestyle relay.
The teammates did well together over the season,
according to Rabbi Lee Buckman, JAMD head of
school. Several Shrine swimmers attended a sukkah
event at a JAMD swimmer's home this week.
dreamt about," said Shatz of West Bloomfield, a junior
"My friends and I always heard about what high
school swim teams are like — the bonding. It's kind of
like a family. You spend every waking hour with these
people for 12 weeks a year. You learn to love them, and
you win things together.
"It's heartbreaking to have that taken away."
Larry Garon said the JAMD lawsuit against the
MHSAA did not end with the injunction last spring.
The case continues in Oakland County Circuit Court.
The school has asked for accommodation "when tour-
nament dates conflict with our religious beliefs."
A hearing on a new injunction was scheduled for
Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 6.
Michael Sandweiss is the new athletic director at
JAMD (see story page 70). He held a similar position
with a Jewish school in Florida. "There," he said, "we
handled issues like this at the local level."
He said Florida schools hosting state tournaments at
the district or regional level would agree in advance
that his school could play their tournament game at,
for example, 2 p.m. Friday if they advanced that far,
rather than the regularly scheduled 7 p.m. Friday.
"We never played in a state final game," Sandweiss
said, but he felt some accommodation could be found
if the school ever reached that level.
Diversity Minus Tolerance?
Garon concurred. He cited MHSAA spokesman John
Johnson's statement in the Detroit Free Press on
Tuesday: "With a membership as diverse as ours,"
Johnson said, "there are some things that have to be a
certain way. If you join, you adopt all the rules and the
procedures of the association."
Garon believes the MHSAA must "find ways to
become tolerant of that diversity. I'm not saying it's
going to be easy, but it's not impossible."
Peter Donaldson, athletic director at Shrine, said,
"The whole thing was just neat the way the girls
[from each school] worked together as one team."
The relationship with Shine started last year with
then-JAMD Athletic Director Bob Shoemaker, a
Catholic League coaching veteran, calling
Donaldson's predecessor. The JAMD girl swimmers
practiced with Shrine and competed in exhibition
events at meets. This year, with pre-approval from
the Michigan High School Athletic Association, the
two schools were allowed to form a combined team.
Donaldson said the JAMD girls had difficulty
making 5:30 a.m. practices at Ferndale. So they
practiced at 5:30 a.m. at the Jewish Community
Center in West Bloomfield, where JAMD is based,
four mornings per week. They joined the Shrine
girls for the afternoon practices, and occasionally
Coach Smith went to the JCC to work with them
in the morning.
The 165-student Jewish Academy of Metropolitan
Detroit, now in its fifth year fields 12 sports
• Fall Sports: girls cross country, basketball, ten-
nis, swimming; boys cross country, golf, soccer.
• Winter Sports: boys basketball, girls volleyball.
• Spring Sports: boys baseball, tennis; girls soccer.
JAMD is continuing its case before Judge Rae Lee
Chabot in Oakland County Circuit Court. Garon said
the school could seek another injunction and expects
MHSAA will appeal any decision that goes against it.
The privately run MHSAA has more than 700
member schools and "is the only game in town if you
want to play against your peers at the end of the sea-
son," Garon said.
The MHSAA decision also will impact the schedul-
ing of regular season contests for JAMD, according to
Garon. While MHSAA rules allow member schools to
play non-members, the reality is that many MHSAA
members refuse to schedule non-members because the
non-members don't have to abide by MHSAA eligibili-
A lengthy court battle could be expensive, but attor-
ney Steven Z. Cohen, a former president of Yeshivat
Akiva in Southfield, has donated his services to JAMD.
"He called us and volunteered" when the dispute over
the baseball team became public, Garon said. "He
thought it was important."
Garon said the Anti-Defamation League Michigan
Region also has been supportive and believes the case
has national implications. ❑
Senior Copy Editor David Sachs contributed to this story.
"The Shrine girls are the nicest girls that I have
ever had the privilege of swimming with," said
Shatz. "They've been really welcoming, and they've
accommodated us with the Jewish holidays and
"I can't say enough good things about them."
The cooperative relationship is far from unique in
Michigan high school sports, but Jewish students
working with Shrine could be.
The school is the educational wing of the
National Shrine of the Little Flower, the church at
12 Mile and Woodward made famous in the 1920s
and '30s by Father Charles Coughlin. His weekly
national radio broadcasts from the church and his
Social Justice publication blamed an international
Jewish conspiracy for the Great Depression and
other societal problems. Fr. Coughlin was "silenced"
by the Pope early in World War II.
— Alan Hitsky, associate editor