Teenage Orthodox pingpong phenom may have to skip Olympics because trials are on Shabbat

(JTA) — An 18-year-old pingpong star may have to skip this year’s Olympics because the U.S. trials are scheduled for Shabbat and she is an Orthodox Jew.

While many Orthodox Jews will informally play sports on Shabbat, they generally do not take part in organized competition.

Estee Ackerman, who won the women’s division at the 2018 Table Tennis U.S. Open, reached out to USA Table Tennis via her father in January requesting to reschedule the matches to another day. The trials are set for later this month.

But the request has not been approved, according to the New York Post, and the deadline for that decision is Friday.

“I’m really disappointed,” Ackerman, who is from suburban New York’s Long Island, told the Post. “I’d like them to give me the opportunity to go for my dream.”

The Anti-Defamation League weighed in on Friday, asking USA Table Tennis “to accommodate the Jewish religious observance of an Orthodox teenager.”

Ackerman has been playing pingpong since she was a little kid, and once beat tennis champion Rafael Nadal in a match.

This is not the first time she has had to forgo a competition because of her religious observance. In 2012, Ackerman forfeited her place in a tournament after reaching the round of 16 because her match fell on Shabbat.

“I said to myself, this situation was going to happen to me one day,” Ackerman told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency for a 2016 profile. “I had to choose my religion or the love of the sport. On Shabbat, to be in my uniform, to go down to be competing in a national tournament, this is not in the spirit of Shabbos. This is not what Hashem would want me to do.”

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