Can't sacrifice my Judaism

By RACHEL KRAMER
On February 19, 2013

The Faculty Executive Committee voted to hold classes on Labor Day and on the Jewish High Holy days in order to have a class session over winter break and add two days to Thanksgiving break.

As a Jewish student, this is not OK with me.

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year and Yom Kippur - the Day of Atonement - are the two "High Holy days" of the Jewish faith. On Yom Kippur, which occurs 10 days after Rosh Hashanah, you are supposed to fast for 24 hours and spend the day praying and repenting your sins from the previous year. Both of these holidays are considered a "complete Sabbath," which means those observing aren't permitted to use technology or do any work.

That means I can't attend class.

I am aware that 22 out of the 29 other SUNY schools hold classes on the two high holidays, but I did not choose to attend Buffalo State College or SUNY Plattsburg. I chose UB - a place where my religion was accepted without question.

I don't believe Jewish holidays are any more or less important than any other religious holiday. Whenever the decision was made to cancel class on the High Holy days, the decision should have also been made to cancel class on Good Friday. It was wrong of the university to provide one religion priority over another.

However, because UB has canceled classes before, they can't take it away now without backlash and uproar from the Jewish students.

I grew up in a highly Jewish community in Long Island, N.Y., and I have never experienced an issue where my religious practices were in danger or even questioned. Since kindergarten, my schools have always been respectfully closed on the two most important holidays on the Jewish calendar.

The days off from school enabled me to go to temple, spend time with my family and fast without worrying about what crucial content I may have been missing in my classes.

My past two years at UB have been the same way. I had no pressure to worry about my academic career.

Although I was lucky enough to be able to go home this past Yom Kippur to atone with my family, I stayed at school my freshman year. Like many Jews on campus, I spent the day miserable with my stomach growling. I could barely rise with the congregation at the Hillel services, let alone function in a classroom.

On the Jewish New Year, I was able to eat my apples and honey - a traditional Rosh Hashanah snack - and listen to the shofar with my friends in Hillel without working around my class schedule.

If classes aren't canceled, I'll skip them. Because of that, my education will be at a disadvantage because I chose to celebrate my religion.

Edward Herman, secretary of the Faculty Senate, said in a Spectrum article, according to the New York State law, professors cannot give exams, set due dates for projects of papers or mandate attendance on a religious holidays or interfere with religious observance in any other way.

I'm not only worried about the day of the holiday. It's also the day after.

Because it's religiously forbidden to study or do any work for those two days, you are unable to study for the important test in your 9 a.m. class the following morning. Even if I was to break that rule, think about how unfocused you are when you skip breakfast. Now think of that all day. Personally, I couldn't do it.

These added school days are still awaiting President Tripathi's approval.

While the student body sits in anticipation, waiting to hear if their Labor Day plans, Rosh Hashanah celebrations or Yom Kippur fasting will be disrupted, Daniel Ovadia, the UB Council student representative said the administration will likely set up a group to provide student input.

Class or no class, I plan on spending the holidays as a proud Jew - not just a UB student.

 

Email: rachel.kramer@ubspectrum.com


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