Israeli Team Chooses Shabbos Over Championship Title

A team of Israeli students bowed out of an international Robotics Competition because of their Shabbos observance. Thousands of students from all over the world gave them a standing ovation for their courage.

By reporter

A team of Israeli students chose keeping Shabbos over winning a robotics competition, making a Kiddush Hashem across the globe. Even having the competition organizers thanked them for reminding everyone of “what’s truly important.”

The team of Israeli students, who had traveled from Amit High School in Modi’in successfully made it to the final stage of the First Robotics Competition in Houston, Texas held this past weekend.

The FIRST Championship is the culminating international competition of the youth robotics community. Tens of thousands of students from more than 43 countries participated in the four-day event dedicated to celebrating youth engagement in science and engineering.

On hand was Houston shliach Rabbi Chaim Lazaroff, who heads Chabad UpTown in Houston. Together with bochurim Levi Roth and Moshe Silber of the Chabad Israeli Center run by Rabbi Menny Raichik, he visited all the Israeli teams competing in the championship to offer his encouragement.

The championship was preceding as expected, but then the team faced a dilemma. The next phase of the competition was scheduled on Shabbos…

Despite all their hard work to get to that point, the religious students decided to forfeit their place in the competition so as not to violate Shabbos.

Instead, they left an empty booth with Shabbos candles, challah, a Kiddush cup, and an Israeli flag, along with a brief explanation of the significance of Shabbos.

To explain their absence at the actual competition, the students wrote a letter, stating that they were not willing to compromise their values even for the highly-sought after top prize.

“We have a religious Jewish back, and our faith plays a significant role in who we are. Saturdays, or Shabbat, holds a special significance in the Jewish faith. It is a time when we disconnect and focus on our spiritual well-being, families, G-d, and communities. Because of this our team will not be present and competing during the remainder of the competition,” they wrote.

The announcer read their letter in front of all the other competitors, and students from all over the world rose to give them a standing ovation.

The announcer then said, “Thank you for the reminder that there are other things outside the world of robotics that are also important.”

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