Lack of religious holiday acknowledgement is appalling

More work must be done to recognize Jewish, Muslim holidays


Jacob Khabie

I missed six out of the first 16 days of my senior year. It was not because I was sick, quarantined or just lazy. It was because of the plethora of Jewish holidays that take place each fall. 

On each of these days, including my very first day of the school year, I missed out on important lessons, quizzes, tests or even just time to spend with my peers and get to know my teachers. When I returned to school, I was not met with any slack or sympathy, but instead with piles of missing work I had to finish as soon as possible. As a Jewish student at Park, this holiday-absence-induced-workload is something I’ve become all too familiar with, and something none of my Christian peers will ever have to deal with.

The lack of religious consciousness at Park is not new, nor is it surprising. In my freshman year alone, prom was scheduled on the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr and second semester finals were scheduled on the Jewish holiday of Shavuot. This year, the first day of school was moved from the first day of Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year, to the second day of the very same holiday. 

This sheer ignorance on behalf of Park’s administration and school board is not only insulting to Jewish and Muslim students, but it is also disappointing. Jewish and Muslim students are by no means a small minority at Park. In a school that has gained the nickname “St. Jewish Park” and recently opened a prayer room for Muslim students, both religious populations have made themselves established and known. Therefore, it is bewildering that there is hardly any sort of acknowledgement of these students when it comes to the placement of holiday breaks. 

All of our breaks are centered around Americanized, Christian holidays like Christmas, yet there are no days off offered for other religious holidays. The closest Jewish students have ever gotten to such a feat is the off-chance that spring break is placed on Passover. 

Moving forward, I would encourage administration and the school board to take significant steps to help make Park a more inclusive place for non-Christian students. First, I would advocate for students of various religious minorities to be included on scheduling committees, to ensure that there are no significant dates placed on important holidays, and to ensure that any breaks can best fit those of all religions — not just Christians. I would also implore the administration to educate staff on significant religious holidays, instead of leaving that burden for the students. Taking simple steps such as these will allow Park to do better for its Jewish and Muslim students, and start long-overdue the process of making the school a religiously-inclusive place.