West Hempstead, NY – Estee Ackerman, an 11-year-old sixth grader from West Hempstead, Long Island, set aside her ambition and sacrificed a chance to compete at the final event in the 2012 US National Table Tennis Championship in Las Vegas for the sake of shabbos.
“I advanced in my round robin and then we looked at my schedule and saw the next match would be during Friday night, which is our Sabbath, so of course I’m disappointed,” Estee told the New York Post (http://bit.ly/Wei58f) in an interview. “I practiced and trained for six months for this. Ping-pong is important to me, but my religion of Judaism is also very important to me.”
Estee’s father, Glenn Ackerman, said his daughter had to withdraw from the December 21 event because tournament officials would not reschedule it for after shabbos. “She had a shabbos-over-sports moment,” Ackerman, who trains with Estee almost daily, said. “Hopefully, other Jewish athletes will also look to Estee to pursue their dreams in whatever sport they choose.”
The CEO of USA Table Tennis, Michael Cavanaugh, said the sport’s governing body tries to be “inclusionary in the manner in which we run our events.” The Ackermans say that with close to 800 players to schedule over a five-day period, it is understandable that Estee’s event could not be rescheduled when it fell out on shabbos.
Estee is ranked fourth in the 8-to-11 age bracket, but she often competes against and beats ping-pong players twice her age and older. Her talent for competitive ping-pong was first discovered by professional ping-pong player, Biba Golic, at a tournament in July in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Golic, the celebrity promoter of Killerspin ping-pong items, awarded Estee a sponsorship after seeing her play against and defeat a 30-year-old man. “Tactically and strategically she has a natural sense for the game,” Golic said. The 11-year-old now flies around the country to promote Killerspin at exhibition events, and Killerspin is considering sending Estee to China this summer for intensive training.
For now, Estee is looking toward the future and hopes to someday join the US Olympic table tennis team. “I hope to try out for the Olympic team and one day bring back a medal for my country,” Estee said.