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Beth Tfiloh will be named mock trial ‘co-champion’

The organizer of the 2019 Maryland high school mock trial tournament has named Beth Tfiloh “co-champion” after the Jewish school’s team was unable to compete in the final round because it fell on the holy penultimate day of Passover and no reasonable accommodation could be made for a face-off against the eventual champion, Richard Montgomery High School.

Maryland Youth & the Law, or MYLaw, said Rockville’s Richard Montgomery would retain the title 2019 MSBA Mock Trial Champion.

MYLaw’s decision to name Beth Tfiloh High School co-champion, announced Friday, followed the Pikesville school’s objection to the organization’s initial decision to designate the team as “finalist” in all records of the 2019 tournament.

Zipora Schorr, Beth Tfiloh’s education director, said “finalist” did not accurately reflect what the school believed should be its equal, co-champion, status with Richard Montgomery, the team it had rightfully earned a chance to compete against but could not due to religious observance.

Schorr said she was “very appreciative” of MYLaw’s “responsiveness” and “sensitivity” to the school’s religious concerns by designating Beth Tfiloh co-champion.

“Isn’t it wonderful that we are teaching the children that standing by your convictions pays off?” Schorr said. “This was a teachable moment.”

Shelley Brown, executive director of Baltimore-based MYLaw, said in a statement that “as an organization dedicated to civics and law education, MYLaw deeply regrets the conflict and sincerely respects Beth Tfiloh’s adherence to the school’s Jewish tradition and values.”

Richard Montgomery was crowned champion April 26 after the Rockville school defeated the team from Baltimore City College — the team it had beaten the day before in the semifinals.

In the other semifinal match, Beth Tfiloh beat Salisbury’s James M. Bennett High School and would have headed to the final round but for the students’ religious observance and MYLaw’s inability to change the date of the championship, which fell within the final days of Passover, a time of rest on the Jewish calendar.

MYLaw noted in its announcement Friday that it had made accommodations for the semifinal round by rescheduling Beth Tfiloh’s match to an earlier time to ensure its completion and the students’ arrival home by sundown.

“MYLaw made several attempts to resolve Beth Tfiloh’s religious conflict but was only able to reschedule the semifinals on such notice,” the organization said, adding that the school had notified it of the religious conflict two weeks before the semifinals.

MYLaw flipped a coin to determine which of the losers in the semifinal round would face off against Richard Montgomery for the championship. Baltimore City College won the toss against James M. Bennett.

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