By Lena Rosen
Pretty soon, my school will be on winter break for the holidays. And by the holidays, I mostly mean Christmas. For most of my peers, this holiday is a big deal. But as a Jew, my most important holiday season comes months earlier. It’s at the beginning of the school year when my family celebrates Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
As I get older, juggling school and the holidays is becoming more complicated. This year, I missed three school days because neither holiday fell on a weekend. As a junior in honors classes, those days became huge sources of stress. I had a calculus test scheduled for Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar. The test was eventually moved, but the stress remained throughout the rest of my holidays. It wasn’t as simple in my AP Language class, where we presented group projects on Yom Kippur. Almost every group had a Jewish student. But my teacher wanted the entire group to be in class for the presentation. That forced our class to fall behind.
During Christian holidays, there’s always a month of decorations, candy, or new Starbucks drinks. Everyone knows when Christmas and Easter are. But Jewish holidays follow the lunar calendar, shifting yearly. There aren’t the warning bells or holiday carols as reminders for those who aren’t Jewish. Tests don’t happen on December 25th. But that’s not the case for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, or Yom Kippur.
I was raised in a Jewish home, understanding the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are really important. I’ve always been taught that my actions on those days decide if I’m written in the Book of Life for the next year. This makes it very hard to justify going to school on those days.
Religious students missing school isn’t just about assignments and homework. Making up quizzes and tests means I miss out in other ways too. I miss instruction time if I make up exams during school. And I miss extracurricular time re-taking tests after school.
I don’t expect teaching to halt, and I don’t expect school to be cancelled. However, a little consideration for observant students like me when teachers plan test dates goes a long way.
I’m caught up on my schoolwork now. But I shouldn’t have to trade observing my holidays for stress while other students get an extended break for their holiday season.