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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I Raise You An Unexcused Absence

Talking a break from every one's most favorite subject matter just to comment on an issue of concern to the larger Jewish community.

I spotted this AP News story on VIN regarding the public schools in Providence, Rhode Island. For the first time in 30 years, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur will not official school holidays and Jewish leaders are bent out of shape saying "were concerned that students who take those days off might be subjected to discrimination or would feel pressure to attend class rather than religious services."

Pardon me for a lack of sympathy. My father grew up in "Ir HaKodesh" and in those days, school was always in session during the High Holidays, which was certainly ridiculous considering each class averaged about 3-5 non-Jews including the teacher. Later my grandparents made "yeridah" and to a different locale and in such a place, there was little to no understanding for a student who would not sing Christmas songs or participate in the Christmas play, none of which he would touch with a 10 foot pole.

When I started in (public) school, religious absences were excused. But, unfortunately, some local churches abused this privilege and after one too many youth group ski trips, the District stopped excusing full-day religious absences which left me with some big, fat unexcused absences on my transcript. After I went to bat to try and get my unexcused absence excused, my parents did approach the school district to explain that their new policy, while certainly justified, did not consider the needs of the small Jewish population. They attempted to explain that holidays such as Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur were full-day, obligatory religious days, not ski trips or social events.

I have no idea if the policy was ever changed. I do know that I graduated with a handful of unexcused absences on my transcript. In the end, my family considered this to be the price of Jewish commitment and we happily paid the price and moved on proudly.

There is something very empowering about sacrifice for Torah observance, no matter what the level you are at. I have to wonder if the Jewish Leaders who are making a fuss are really helping the cause, especially by suggesting students might feel pressured to attend classes (!).

It is natural to feel torn. But when they decide not to attend, their sacrifice will carry far greater significance (and hopefully these same Jewish Leaders will take to their pulpits and what have you to encourage parents and students to place the High Holy Days at the top of the calendar). I can't think of anything more religiously empowering growing up making it clear that as a Jew I would not, under any circumstances, participate in any celebration of Christmas, e.g.,, even where teachers thought there might be some room for compromise or negotiation.

I rarely comment on issues outside the Orthodox world, but today religion has been nearly ousted from the public square and purged from the public schools. Along with a greater tolerance for diversity of religious practice, something which I think can be celebrated, comes fewer chances for Jewish children to stand up and be strong regarding their own beliefs and practices. I'd say that before the Jewish Leaders of Rhode Island make a scene, they consider the golden opportunity that the students have to be different by being Jewish, an integral part and privilege of being part of Am Yisrael.

Give these kids and their families to do the right thing and miss school to attend shul.


Anonymous said...

Excellent post. When I read about the concerns of the RI parents and Jewish leaders, I had the same reaction. I think we also have to recognize that we now live in a much more diverse country. If schools are expected to close for Jewish religious holidays, then they will also have to close for muslim, hindu, buddhist, etc. holidays. It will be impossible to get in the mandated 180 days from Sept. - June and schools will have to open almost year round at much higher costs. What should be advocated in that schools have a policy for excusing absences for recognized religious holidays and that they try not to schedule significant events on those dates like non-makeupable exams. We also have to remember that one of the reasons that many school districts used to close on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur was because there used to be a lot of Jewish teachers and it was hard for schools to find enough substitutes since all the Jewish teachers took off and there was added expense to the school system.

As for xmas activities in public schools, it really is not an issue any more.

LeahGG said...

I attended public schools for 5 years. (My siblings did for much more) My parents always wrote notes to the teachers explaining that I could not ride on a bus, turn on lights, write, etc, and needed to be home for a holy day, and the teachers figured out what to write in their books. They might have marked it as an illness for all I know.
It may have helped that I clearly kept kosher, often foregoing treats bought for the class such as birthday cakes. or that I was often the only one.

In any case, I never had an absence marked as unexcused.

tdr said...

Let's look for a moment of the reality of this policy for this year.

Yom Kippur falls on Shabbos this year. That takes care of that. No issue.

For schools that start after Labor Day, Rosh Hashanah comes on the 3rd and 4th days of school! If I were a non-religious parent I'd be howling if my school closed for 2 days for a holiday that had nothing to do with me 2 days AFTER IT OPENED. Or even a week and a half after it opened for those schools that start before Labor Day.

I really wish we could excise the subculture of whining that has permeated our holy people. Sheesh. Grow up people!

In Owings Mills, MD, the schools have to close because a huge chunk of the population disappears on R'H and Y'K, but more importantly there are not enough substitute teachers to go around for those days.

tesyaa said...

In general religious absences are excused and makeup tests are available. What are these kids going to do when they get to college, where certain professors are known to be unsympathetic to religious observances? Deal with things as best as you can, because this is the real world.

Staying Afloat said...

I here you on the conept. But I take issue with the "no religioun in public schools" thing.

I only have experience with pre-school, but I can tell you that the school my kid went to operated on the principle that as long as you keep the holidays cultural instead of religious, it's fine. So they had Santa, and Easter eggs, and a Halloween party (I know- everyone seems to have forgotten that one's religious). But we just pulled him out, and it was fine.

From a teacher's POV: My mother-in-law taught in upstate NY public schools. Whenever she took off for a holiday that wasn't in the calender, she had to take a personal day. If she used them up, she didn't get paid. And if the holiday fell on a day that teachers aren't allowed to take off (the day before or after a school vacation), she had to jump through hoops to not get censured. So yeah, good thing she had the skills and understanding from her childhood.

It should be noted that the whole reason school soriginally strated giving off Rosh Hashanah was because of the lack of teachers and subs. It wasn't a religious freedom thing.

Miami Al said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Miami Al said...

Rosh Hashanah in school, in many places is only Day 1, NOT both days. Most Jews take off the first day, the second day is hit or miss.

People love to make a big deal about Yom Kippur not being a school holiday when it's on a Saturday, like they expect Yom Kippur observed to be on the calendar or something. :) I try to remind people that the Catholic Schools are closed for Yom Kippur in those years.

Modern Halloween is NOT a religious holiday. It was the secularization of teenage vandalism tied to a quasi-holiday amongst SOME Christians, combined with the fall harvest in North America.

The idea that Halloween is this religious pagan holiday is an invention of Christian Fundamentalists. Some of the imagery came from Pagan derived events, but the holiday itself, an invention and a pretty harmless one.

Seriously, if you think it's a religious holiday, WHICH religion celebrates it? There isn't an actual religion that celebrates it, we go paranoid because the Christian fundamentalists called it pagan and we needed to one up them. This is plain ignorance on display.

G*3 said...

I’m afraid I have to disagree with you on all points. Christian privilege in the United States is so much a part of the culture that most people don’t even see it. Christmas, New Years, and Easter are all public holidays. Christians don’t have to worry about working on their holidays, and when they do, they get paid extra. Everyone else has to beg their bosses for time off and use up vacation days to get off for their holidays.

The Jewish leaders should protest. This is nothing less than religious discrimination. Either everyone should get off for their holidays, or no one should. (I know, it’s not likely to change anything, but they should at least make the effort.)

As for it being spiritually ennobling to suffer for one’s religious principles, it’s true that sacrificing for something makes one appreciate it more. (That’s why college fraternities haze new members.) But to take that line of argument to its logical extreme, you wouldn’t argue that we should encourage pogroms or mandatory ghettoes to bolster commitment to Yiddishkeit. Yet when such things were the norm, there were people who made the same argument for those horrors that you make for unexcused absences. Yes, I know that absences and pogroms are on opposite ends of the scale, but that’s the point. It’s a (huge) difference of degree, not of kind.

> If schools are expected to close for Jewish religious holidays, then they will also have to close for muslim, hindu, buddhist, etc. holidays. It will be impossible to get in the mandated 180 days from Sept. - June and schools will have to open almost year round at much higher costs.

Then keep schools open for all holidays, including Christian ones. Anyway, keeping schools open year round would be a good thing. Children lose too much ground over summer vacation.

> The idea that Halloween is this religious pagan holiday is an invention of Christian Fundamentalists.

Halloween was a pagan holiday, until the Catholic Church made it into a Christian holiday called All Hallows Eve. But then, Christmas used to be Saturnalia and Easter used to be a pagan fertility holiday.

D said...

Sorry Orthonomics, but I think you're wrong on this one.

While it's nice to teach our kids to be willing to do sacrifices for the sake of observing the Torah, you have to realize that many (if not most) of the jewish parent body in public schools do not have Judaism as a high priority in their life and if there's school on RH, a lot of them WILL send their kids to school.

So fine, 10% of the students will do a sacrifice, miss class and grow as proud jews, while 90% will lose that small connection that they still have to Judaism.

By focusing on the character-building opportunity of a minority (the children whose parents will make them miss class), you're depriving a majority from an important connection to Judaism.

I wonder if you’d also criticize jews that request kosher food in the US army. Let them eat potatoes and be strong, proud jews….

A Fan said...

D- you may be right about the actual sacrifice, but why should that be of any concern to the public school system? If we're truly concerned about it, then WE OJs should be out there in Providence doing kiruv and trying to convince families to send the kids to shul even if it means missing school.
As an aside, as someone who spent a year teaching public school in NYC (I loved teaching but left for something more lucrative) It didn't really matter in the end that I got R"H and Y"K off. I still had to take off 4 days for Sukkot/Shmini Atzeret, although Spring Break mostly coincided with Pesach, the last day was the day school reopened, so I had to take off for that, and I needed 2 days of for Shavuot, which the principal was really pissed off about because it was right before Memorial Day weekend. As someone who has always been Yeshiva educated, it was very difficult to confront. Whether our kids are in Yeshiva or public school, they need to learn that there is a real world out there that's going to require them to make sacrifices and explain their religion every time they have to do something that raises eyebrows.

Anonymous said...

@ Al

Well the Wiccans celebrate Halloween religiously, but in my close-minded world view they're about as must of a real religion as Obamaism . . . probably less :-)

Dave said...


Most Jewish children will be out of School for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. And they are highly unlikely to have any trouble with the schools because of it.

I don't think any non-Orthodox children would take off for Passover. I certainly can't recall anyone ever doing so.

Julie said...

I understand the perspective of the RI Jewish community. Two decades after graduating from public high school, I still get heart palpitations at the end of a holiday worrying about the two days of schoolwork and homework that I didn't do. On some viceral level, I still feel the stress of knowing that, unless I stay up until 3:00 am to complete the assignments, I will receive a zero on them, and my first semester grades will be shot. (The school policy was that missed work had to be turned in the day that you return to school. Teacher were sometimes a little flexible, but there was no guarantee.) I never want my children to have that negative reaction to chaggim.

There is more flexibility in college and in the real world than there is in elementary school and high school. In college, you can work twice as hard the following week to learn the material that you missed on the holiday. At work, you can plan in advance to a certain degree and you certainly don't come back to 100 algebra problems that your teacher decided to assign on the two days that you missed.

Anonymous said...

D - I think that it is more than 10% for which this is an opportunity to forge an identity and do an affirmative act to buy in to and invest in judaism. For those who will either go to school that day or resent having to miss out and make up homework, etc. closing schools is not going to make a big difference. You think that for secular kids sitting in services in a language you don't understand and listening to what to most kids is a boring serman when their peers have the day off and are outside playing is going to endear them to judaism?

JS said...

"you have to realize that many (if not most) of the jewish parent body in public schools do not have Judaism as a high priority in their life and if there's school on RH, a lot of them WILL send their kids to school."

I would imagine that those that would send to school if school was open would be sitting around watching TV or shopping or what have you if the school was closed. A school closing for Rosh Hashana doesn't instantly transform unaffiliated or loosely affiliated Jews into shul-goers.

It's really a moot issue. Those who care enough will take off and have to sacrifice a bit. Those who don't care are just missing a free day off from school.

Miami Al said...

Re: Wiccans and Halloween -- they are sort of a real religion, there are definitely people into it, but it's mostly angsty teens and people that didn't frow out of that era. :) That said, American Halloween is NOT the celebration of "Wiccan Halloween," the Wiccans adopted American Halloween and declared it their own.

Do we declare Pesach assure because the Christians stuck Easter in their? :)

Re: missing school:
Correct, kids may happily miss school and go to Shul if that's the way out (requiring a letter from a religious leader like they do on the Sunday standardized tests)... but if they miss school anyway, now Shul is instead of playing, and that's lame.

It's probably better, in terms of religious practice, for Jews to take off, preferably with school officials knowing the calendar for sensitivity reasons (excused absences, no exams, etc), than it is for everyone to be off having fun while Jews are trapping in Shul.

JS said...

"I only have experience with pre-school, but I can tell you that the school my kid went to operated on the principle that as long as you keep the holidays cultural instead of religious, it's fine. So they had Santa, and Easter eggs, and a Halloween party (I know- everyone seems to have forgotten that one's religious)."

Your personal views aside (and I admit they align with Orthodox Jewish views), Americans view these holidays and symbols as completely secular. You could add in the Christmas tree as another symbol that is recognized as secular.

It's not a nonsensical or bizarre view. In America, something is religious if it is associated with prayer or worship of some kind. The mere symbols (especially when those symbols are purely cultural) associated with religion are deemed to be secular, for the most part.

This view is backed up by the Supreme Court which has held that even public displays of nativity scenes is secular in the senses that it is not an "establishment of religion."

Personally, I think this narrow view of "establishment" is wrong and dangerous. I think we, as a society, benefit from a "wall of separation" between religion and the state.

Everyone's first reaction is seemingly that the government MUST recognize one's religious beliefs. For example, it should be illegal (or it's wrong) for the public school to not give off on Rosh Hashana!! But, the flip side to that is government being forced to acknowledge and aid in the celebration of all religious holidays. The same people clamoring for Rosh Hashana off are likely to be upset when the schools start forcing student to take a day off for Eid ul Fitr. You just can't have it both ways and, in my opinion, it's better to have no religion than all religions.

You can see the same problems with "free exercise." It's great when RLUIPA allows your community to build yet another shul. Not so great (according to many) when it gives a right to build a muslim cultural center/mosque near Ground Zero. Again, can't have it both ways.

Government benefits from separation by promoting peace and diminishing factionalism amongst its people (e.g, fights over public spaces and tax dollars). Religion benefits from not having government oversight and involvement (e.g., government dictating to Catholic institutions that they must distribute condoms and provide pamphlets on abortion).

Anonymous said...

JS: I agree with your sentiments about separation of church and state. Some jews sometimes forget what has made the U.S. so great for jews. A minor clarification - I do not believe that the courts have held that nativity scenes are secular and can be on public land -- only holiday trees and similar decorations. I believe that holding was the result of a group's fight to be granted permission to put a menorah on public property (a city hall or the like) and the court found that the menorah, just like a tree, is a secular seasonal symbol.

Orthonomics said...

D-Of course I would not critizie Jewish servicemen (thank you for your service) for requesting kosher food. In fact, in the past we've helped sponsor kosher Pesach meals for servicemen.

Some battles should be fought in the public square. I'm not sure this is one of them. But, I could be wrong.

JS said...

If you're interested, see the following cases (a "creche" is a nativity scene):

Lynch v. Donnelly
"The narrow question is whether there is a secular purpose for Pawtucket's display of
the creche. The display is sponsored by the city to celebrate the Holiday and to depict
the origins of that Holiday. These are legitimate secular purposes. The District Court's
inference, drawn from the religious nature of the creche, that the city has no secular
purpose was, on this record, clearly erroneous."

County of Allegheny v. ACLU
"Under the Court's holding in Lynch, the effect of a creche display turns on its setting.
Here, unlike in Lynch, nothing in the context of the display detracts from the creche's
religious message. The Lynch display comprised a series of figures and objects, each
group of which had its own focal point. Santa's house and his reindeer were objects of
attention separate from the creche, and had their specific visual story to tell ... Here, in contrast, the creche stands alone: it is the single element of the
display on the Grand Staircase."

By the way, you're a bit off about the Menorah case (it's the same case as County of Allegheny v. ACLU). In that case the challenge was to the nativity scene and the menorah. A 40 foot Christmas tree was NOT challenged and the court held that Christmas trees are secular. The menorah was NOT deemed to be secular, per se. It was deemed to not be a violation of the establishment clause because it was located right next to the Christmas tree. In short, the Christmas tree with the menorah produced a visual image of plurality and celebrating religious freedom and not an establishment of religion.

This goes to what I said before about government involvement in religion. You end up with a result that really is a Pyrrhic victory - you can have your menorah on public grounds as long as it's next to a huge Christmas tree. The dissent in Lynch said the exact same thing about the nativity scene - sure, you can have the scene, but isn't it perhaps worse that you're forced to put it next to Santa and candy canes, etc?

LeahGG said...

Julie, I was always given the time of my absence (e.g. 2 days for a 2 days absence) to make up my work.

I believe that there should be a sensitivity to students who celebrate a religious holiday and do not write during that holiday.

I also believe that parents should be able to deem a day important enough to remove their child from school as an excused absence as long as the reason is legitimate and the privilege is not over-used. Would visiting a very sick grandmother be an unexcused absence? Would a family wedding? funeral? If so, I think the schools value themselves too highly...

There needs to be a little sensitivity to any child who does not 100% fit the mold at a given time. Every child will have a few days in their school career during which they are better served by being somewhere other than school. Their parents shouldn't need to lie about it.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the correction JS. I don't think menorahs or creches belong on public property regardless of whether or not they are alone or next to a statue of the flying spagghetti monster. I also think that trying to equate Hanukah with xmas and looking for some sort of parity is silly and the wrong message to send to kids.

Miami Al said...


Well, given that the original purpose of the First Amendment Establishment Clause was to prevent the Federal Government from dictating the established Church, to permit each state to have it's own Established Protestant Church, without the Federal Government picking one over the other. (Massachusetts disestablished its Church in the 1830s, I believe)...

The anti-Establishment clause wasn't incorporated into the states and local governments until after the Civil War.

If the Founding generation knew that the First Amendment would be used by Catholics, Jews, and Muslims, they might have thought better of the whole idea. :)

Establishment, in regards to religion, had a MUCH more specific definition in the 18th Century than it seems to now.

Anonymous said...

LeahG: I think that is how the vast majority of schools handle it and the story about having to stay up all night doing algebra because the work was due the day after an absence is a very rare handling of absences.

JS said...


It's not really clear what the Framer's had in mind. There is really next to no recorded debate on the drafting of the First Amendment. Madison was the primary drafter of the religion parts of the Amendment. We know his views from his famous Memorial and Remonstrance (he worked closely with Jefferson who drafted the first religious freedom bill in Virginia, but Jefferson wasn't present during the drafting of the Bill of Rights). It seems Madison realized he couldn't get such a sweeping Amendment and was satisfied in the end with no establishment and free exercise being vague.

As another twist, on the same day that they voted to pass the First Amendment (sending it to the states), they also passed a resolution calling on Washington to proclaim a day of Thanksgiving to God for all He has done for the country.

In short, the First Amendment was as schizophrenic then as it is now.

You are right that none of the Bill of Rights (including the First Amendment) applied to the states. They only originally applied to the Federal government. Massachusetts was one of the last states to get rid of its church (1833). Interestingly, until then you had to be a member of a church and pay taxes to the government designating what church you wanted the money to go to (it was precisely this type of law that lead Jefferson to draft and get passed the religious freedom law in Virginia over Patrick Henry's strong objection, Henry was governor at the time). The religion clauses of the First Amendment were incorporated to the States in 1940's in Everson (Establishment) and Cantwell (Free Exercise). Until then there was no federal mandate for the states on these issues (it was a state law/constitution issue).

Quote from Madison's Memorial and Remonstrace (just to show one line of thought at the time of drafting):

Because it is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties. We hold this
prudent jealousy to be the first duty of Citizens, and one of the noblest characteristics
of the late Revolution. The free men of America did not wait till usurped power had
strengthened itself by exercise, and entagled the question in precedents. They saw all
the consequences in the principle, and they avoided the consequences by denying the
principle. We revere this lesson too much soon to forget it. Who does not see that the
same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may
establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other
Sects? that the same authority which can force a citizen to contribute three pence only of
his property for the support of any one establishment, may force him to conform to any
other establishment in all cases whatsoever?

Miami Al said...


Right, any protections in the First Amendment for non-Christian religions is inadvertent, because while most of the supporters would have been okay with a non-Establishment clause that permitted men to join and Christian faith, without a more general protection, it wouldn't work.

Look at the fights regarding the Mormons, the Evangelicals deny that they are a Christian faith because of their additional book of the bible.

Point being, at the time of the adoption of the First Amendment, there WAS a Church of Massachusetts, plus as you stated, the taxes for your religious organization. Some of the Founders may not have liked it, but if it was legal at the time of the adoption of the First Amendment, and remained in place, clearly the original meaning of the First Amendment did not prevent Massachusetts from having a state Church.

Coming out in this nonsense about the Ground Zero Islamic Center is that Jews were in NYC since the 17th Century, and were not permitted, by law, to have a synagogue until the mid 19th century.

Religious freedom was MUCH more narrow until incorporation of the First Amendment, which I didn't realize was as late at the 40s.
And now the suggestion of Jewish students needing

JS said...

I wouldn't say protections for non-Christians was inadvertent as much as it likely wasn't at the forefront of anyone's minds. The great thing about the drafters and the Constitution is the vagueness and breadth of the language.

A bit of a history lesson taken from Justice Black in Everson (note the part about Jews in it):

"A large proportion of the early settlers of this country came here from Europe to escape the bondage of laws which compelled them to support and attend government-favored churches. The centuries immediately before and contemporaneous with the colonization of America had been filled with turmoil, civil strife and persecutions, generated in large part by established sects determined to [p9] maintain their absolute political and religious supremacy. With the power of government supporting them, at various times and places, Catholics had persecuted Protestants, Protestants had persecuted Catholics, Protestant sects had persecuted other Protestant sects, Catholics of one shade of belief had persecuted Catholics of another shade of belief, and all of these had from time to time persecuted Jews. In efforts to force loyalty to whatever religious group happened to be on top and in league with the government of a particular time and place, men and women had been fined, cast in jail, cruelly tortured, and killed. Among the offenses for which these punishments had been inflicted were such things as speaking disrespectfully of the views of ministers of government-established churches, non-attendance at those churches, expressions of nonbelief in their doctrines, and failure to pay taxes and tithes to support them."

These practices of the old world were transplanted to, and began to thrive in, the soil of the new America. The very charters granted by the English Crown to the individuals and companies designated to make the laws which would control the destinies of the colonials authorized these individuals and companies to erect religious establishments which all, whether believers or nonbelievers, would be required to support and attend. An exercise of this authority was accompanied by a repetition of many of the old-world practices and persecutions. Catholics found themselves hounded and proscribed because of their faith; Quakers who followed their conscience went to jail; Baptists were peculiarly obnoxious to certain dominant Protestant sects; men and women of varied faiths who happened to be in a minority in a particular locality were persecuted because they steadfastly persisted in worshipping God only as their own consciences dictated. And all of these dissenters were compelled to pay tithes and taxes to support government-sponsored churches whose ministers preached inflammatory sermons designed to strengthen and consolidate the established faith by generating a burning hatred against dissenters.

These practices became so commonplace as to shock the freedom-loving colonials into a feeling of abhorrence. The imposition of taxes to pay ministers' salaries and to build and maintain churches and church property aroused their indignation. It was these feelings which found expression in the First Amendment..."

Mike S. said...

While I can see the the public schools don't want to, and probably should not, close for everyone's religious festivals, it seems to me that it is reasonable to expect some flexibility on attendance and the time allotted to make up work. If public schools are to serve everyone in a society with multiple religions, each with its own ritual calendar and rules, there has to be some flexibility for those who don't run according to the calendar of the majority.

And the "all work due the day you get back" is just stupid in general. My kids' yeshivah has this policy, which fortunately is not usually enforced. What sense is there in making a kid who misses a week of school for life-saving surgery to either stay out of school for another few days to make up the work or to stay up all night impeding his or her recovery to get work done before returning?

JLan said...

"Coming out in this nonsense about the Ground Zero Islamic Center is that Jews were in NYC since the 17th Century, and were not permitted, by law, to have a synagogue until the mid 19th century."

I don't know if it was illegal at the time (though I've never heard any such thing), but Shearith-Israel built its first building in 1730.

As a side note, going back to an early comment from tesyaa: most colleges have some sort of official holiday policy, but they often do require you giving notice to a professor early in the semester. Said professor can still be a pain about things, and at that point it's up to the student whether they want to let the professor's actions go or to bring it up with the appropriate authorities at the university.

Anonymous said...

On the subject of college, believe it or not, if you want accomodations for Jewish holy days and you aren't in a state school or YU/Truro, go to a Catholic-affiliated school like BC, Notre Dame, Mount St. Mary's if you want to be a teacher, etc. -- they are very respectul of Jewish holidays.

Anonymous said...

I'm in a public university now, and as an update on how missing class is handled today, professors have to give you make-ups but I've been stressing since July. There are issues such as the professor's idea of fair make-up being a cumulative exam at the end of the semester, or missing out on extra credit which is really the professor's idea of a curve. Add the stress of making up work and of taking an exam a full two days before your peers or taking exams back to back when your friends will have another day to study for the second exam and it is an issue. I am a strong student so there are not many "what-ifs" on my transcript but I can see a weaker student's grades suffering.

miriamp said...

First day of school in Providence is before labor day -- Sept 1st. (just for the record, for the person who suggested R"H would be the second day of school -- it's not.)

I'm not sure how I missed this -- I live in the area! -- but probably it's just not on the local Orthodox community's radar, since we send our kids to the Day School and not to public school.

I went to a public school that gave off for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. I'm pretty sure we had Pesach too, because I don't remember packing matza for school lunch -- and I do remember trying to figure out what to pack when we had school on Erev Pesach. And I took the other holidays once I was in jr.high and high school. They were officially designated DROs (Days of Religious Observance) on which tests were forbidden. Missed work had to be made up, but we were allowed (a little) extra time to do so.

And in college, well, there were a lot of missed days right at the beginning of the semester, and a lot of work to make-up, and I did need to take a make-up final for one 2nd semester class where the final fell on Shavuos. The teacher was Jewish, non-observant, and she said, "well, at least it's not a major holiday like Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur, so it will just be the two of you who can't take it that day."

Which is a roundabout way to say, I guess I believe that the schools have the right to give or not give those days, as long as the students aren't unduly punished for missing class. Sounds like that's the approach the administration is taking too.