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Jewish Students Want To Know Where Their Religious Holidays Went

By Shira Silverstein

For the first time in over 50 years, Jewish Holidays are not on the academic calendar.

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year committed to prayer, and Yom Kippur, the day of atonement with a 24-hour fast, are considered “high holidays” because of their religious significance. These holidays will now have classes on them.

According to the “Proposed Changes to the Academic Planning Calendar,” compiled by Registrar Karent Chico Hurst, the process of making this change began on August 30, 2018, when the Dean’s Council was consulted.

The other stakeholder groups that were asked for feedback include the President’s Council, Interfaith Partners, Student Association Senate, as well as others.

In the “Proposed Changes” document, fourteen overall concerns are stated, including that fundraising and admissions would be adversely affected, religion would be marginalized on campus, and it was unfair for faculty to teach new material, give exams, or require work due on religious holidays.

The document does not mention potential solutions to these issues.

The final decision to take Jewish Holidays out of the calendar was made less than three months later in November 2018.

“I mean it feels like something is taken away, at a time of increasing antisemitism,” said Jewish professor Sally Friedman.

“I think that now a lot of students feel like they really, even though they’re allowed to not be in class, they feel like they have to go to class,” said Rabbi Nomi Manon of the University’s Hillel. “And so it’s making them sort of choose between their academic life and their religious cultural life.”

“This year I’m only going to be able to celebrate Rosh Hashanah with my family and I won’t get to celebrate Yom Kippur or any of the other Jewish holidays,” said UAlbany student Rebecca Lares. “My studies are definitely going to suffer from missing the Monday of Rosh Hashanah.”

The Director of Media and Community Relations, Jordan Carleo-Evangelist agreed to make a comment after the Registrar’s Office refused to.

“I think that we would sort of disagree with the notion that the way that we modified the schedule makes it less inclusive for Jews, for any faith,” said Carleo-Evangelist. “Because again, this doesn’t specifically impact any one set of religious holidays, it affects all religious holidays.”

The University has stated that the Christian community is impacted because we will now have class the day after Easter, which we have had off in the past. This affects spring break

as a whole but is different than not having the holiday off at all, as with the Jewish holidays.

Although the document provided by the University claims that part of the reason they have done this is to get rid of any religious holidays in the academic calendar, the main reason is

the need for “consistency” in the calendar, as per multiple UAlbany’s spokespersons.

Every year, the Jewish Holidays change dates because they are based off of the lunar calendar. Due to this, it was very difficult to make a five-year calendar, which is something the

University wanted to accomplish.

This, too, falls flat because although the Jewish Holidays do change every year, the dates are widely accessible online for hundreds of years in advance.

“Had they had done a little research, they could have easily implemented a five year plan including the Jewish Holidays,” said UAlbany student Seth Brooks. “But unfortunately they

did not.”

“I would just like them to give us a proper explanation,” said UAlbany student Alyssa Guiang. “You could look up when Rosh Hashanah is, so why not just plan ahead?”

Students want to know: Did the Registrar’s office make this decision because it was right, or because it was easier?


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