JTA — A 14-year-old chess prodigy from Israel turned down free trips to India and Slovakia to compete in chess championships because the contests are scheduled to take place on Jewish holy days.
Yair Hoffmann attends the religious Tzviah high school in Petah Tikva, near Tel Aviv. This week he declined the invitation to play at this month’s European Youth Championship in Bratislava in August because it includes games that fall on Shabbat and Tisha b’Av, a day of fasting and mourning marking historical calamities, mainly the destruction of the First and Second Temples.
Hoffman also turned down October’s World Youth Chess Championship in India because that match has games on Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, arguably the holiest day on the Jewish calendar.
Hoffmann won the Israel chess championship in his age category and has achieved a draw in a game against former world champion Viswanathan Anand. He discussed with the organizers the possibility of giving him and his rivals a technical draw in the matches scheduled for Shabbat. Hoffmann pulled out when this solution proved to be unworkable.
Israel Zeira, the CEO of Bemunah, a real-estate firm serving religious communities in Israel, has sponsored Hoffmann’s participation in another international chess tournament scheduled to take place this month in Poland. The International Irena Warakomska Memorial tournament does not fall on Shabbat or any other day when observant Jews refrain from work and other activities.