[See Matzav.com first report on this story here.] The Record reports: NJ Assemblyman Gary Schaer has fired off a letter to USA Gymnastics, calling a decision not to allow a 7-year-old Orthodox Jewish gymnast to compete for an individual title at a states competition “unacceptable.”
Amalya Knapp of Teaneck performed at the Level 4 States competition in Cresskill on Sunday, but her scores did not count toward any individual titles or rankings. The girls in her age group competed Saturday afternoon while Knapp Amalya and her family observed the Jewish Sabbath.
Coaches at the U.S. Gymnastics Development Center in Leonia had asked USA Gymnastics – New Jersey to accommodate Amalya, but organizers said the best they could do was have her compete Sunday, without any prospect of a title.
Schaer (, D-Passaic), the only Orthodox Jewish member of the New Jersey state Legislature, said he read about Amalya in The Record on Sunday and immediately penned a letter to Steve Penny, president of USA Gymnastics, the national organization. He strongly urged the organization to adjust its policies in order to “ensure |all children in New Jersey are able to participate in your competitions.”
“As New Jersey and the United States continue to try and include young people from all religious and racial backgrounds in our pluralistic society, making accommodation for religious observances must be among those efforts,” Schaer wrote. “I’m sure you would agree about the critical importance in a child’s life of both religious observance and athletic competition and that one should not come at the detriment of the other.”
Leslie King, a spokeswoman for USA Gymnastics, said Monday that Amalya participated in the event, as outlined in the organization’s rules and policies and reiterated that event organizers do their best to find competition dates that are convenient for all.
“At times, these dates will conflict with personal commitments and other obligations for participants, but we do our best to provide alternate opportunities,” King wrote in an e-mail.
Chavie Knapp, Amalya’s mother, said she felt encouraged by Schaer’s letter.
“I would like to be able to think, that just like any other child, she will be able to fulfill and maximize her potential,” Knapp said. “It’s hard to watch your child not be acknowledged for everything she’s worked so hard for her over the last year, just because she’s an Orthodox Jew. It’s not fair.”
Had Amalya received an individual rank, she would have placed fifth in the state, Knapp said.