A school board in Farmington, Connecticut is reversing its controversial decision to “delete” Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the Jewish faith’s holiest holidays, as days off on the schools’ academic calendar. This happened after there was protest about this move within the community. The decision to remove the holidays was made in order to get students more in classroom days on the heels of dealing with remote learning from Covid 19.
I went to public school. The vast majority of my classmates had no idea what these holidays were. Most of my classmates were obviously not Jewish. Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year and it is actually two days not one day so I still missed school. Yom Kippur is the Jewish day of Atonement. Growing up as an Orthodox Jew going to public school I missed other days of school for other Jewish holidays that were not recognized by the public school. It was always inconvenient for me as I had to make up the work but they were considered excused absences so there were never any repercussions. In Farmington they also removed Diwali which was observed and is India’s biggest holiday as well as Eid Al-Fitr which is a Muslim holiday. To be fair, I never heard of these holidays when I was growing up. I know for a fact there were Indian students in my class. I do not know if there were Muslim students.
It was the correct decision to restore Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur if public schools are going to be closed for Christian holidays like Christmas. Diwali and Eid Al-Fitr should be restored too if we are going to close public schools for other religion’s holidays. I understand that in public schools there are more Christians than Indians, Muslims, and Jews combined but it sends a bad message to children of the less populace cultures and religions. It tells these impressionable minds that they do not count as much and their holidays are not as important.
In my mind, these are public schools and should not be closed for any religion’s holiday. Separation of church and state. Schools obviously should be closed for national holidays like Memorial Day. If public schools switched to my way of thinking school would be open on Christmas. But no they wouldn’t because actually Christmas is a federal holiday in this country which doesn’t make much sense to me from a theoretical point of view. Practically thinking this is still a country with a majority population of Christians so to be open would mean a lot of people would not show up to work and school.
If I was creating the country we would be open for business and education on all of these holidays but amazingly enough I was not around in the 18th century. Going along with the premise that this country values religious holidays I think for the sake of inclusion we value more than just Christian holidays. I think it would actually be useful to learn about these other holidays and cultures in public schools. I don’t recall a lesson about Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur and why it is important to Jewish students. I never even heard of Diwali and Eid Al-Fitr. If school is going to be closed it would be nice to know why these holidays are important. Not for the purposes of teaching religion. But for the purposes of cultural education and tolerance. In school we always had a Christmas party. Let’s have a Diwali party and a Eid Al-Fitr party and a Rosh Hashanah party. The Yom Kippur party is the easiest to cater because we don’t eat anything. Maybe skip the Yom Kippur party. However, let’s learn and celebrate together. I think those are the types of lessons that will stay with students for a lifetime and make them better members of society which really should be the goal of our public education system.