Since her early childhood, Estee Ackerman has been climbing the charts as a champion in table tennis, never compromising on her observance of Shabbos. For more than a decade, the 20-year-old junior at Stern College has been making headlines for her stellar scores and then fleeing the court as the sun descended to the horizon on Friday afternoons.

The Yogi Berra pun “déjà vu all over again” comes to mind with this past week’s US Open Table Tennis Championship in Las Vegas, where Ackerman’s request for Shabbos accommodations was denied. It last happened at the same event in 2012, when she was among the final 16, but she then threw in the towel as further games took place after Kabalas Shabbos.

“It’s a little bit different this time, as there was an accommodation made for other players,” said her father, Glenn Ackerman. “We see that the rules can be changed.” The Ackermans allege that tournament director and USATT CEO Virginia Sung allowed the other two teams to reschedule their Sunday night semifinal match to Monday as they were tired and it was after 10 p.m. “There’s no curfew in the prospectus,” he said.

USA Table Tennis has not yet responded to a request for comment from this publication.

In contrast, this past Friday, Estee rushed from the venue at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center to her Shabbos hosts with only nine minutes to spare before candle lighting.

“More than 800 people competed, and I am the only shomer Shabbos Jew here. This is to inspire and show that we can do it,” she said. When asked whether it is possible to rely on leniencies to remain on the court during Shabbos, Estee Ackerman refused to consider the possibility. “I am not a rabbi. I was raised in a very Jewish home, and it wouldn’t be in the spirit of Shabbos. That’s personally how I feel.”

The West Hempstead resident speaks of Shabbos as a bigger reward than a gold medal, and she speaks from experience. In early 2016, she competed in North Carolina for the US Olympic tryouts. At the time, she was a ninth-grader at the Yeshiva University High School for Girls. She did not advance to play in Rio de Janeiro, but was honored at the local Chabad House, where she spoke to the local Jewish community on the importance of keeping Shabbos.

She also competed in that year’s US Open Table Tennis Championships in Las Vegas, taking home five medals, including two golds, demonstrating how far she could advance when there is no conflict between Shabbos and the tournament.

Last year, the story repeated itself in Santa Monica, where the four-day US team tryout for the Tokyo Olympics conflicted with Shabbos. “I had to choose my religion or the love of the sport,” she said in an earlier interview. “On Shabbos, to be in my uniform, to go down to be competing in a national tournament, this is not in the spirit of Shabbos. This is not what Hashem would want me to do.”

As we went to press, Ackerman was back in the game, playing as an individual but also as a Yeshiva University student, seminary graduate, and shomer Shabbos Jew. The tournament concludes on Wednesday, December 22, a day after the Ackermans flew home. “It is a very exciting championship, as I’m not in the third-highest event.”

By Sergey Kadinsky