Push back post-pandemic first day school by one day to avoid Rosh Hashanah

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Push back post-pandemic first day school by one day to avoid Rosh Hashanah

This petition made change with 1,082 supporters!
Sharona Jacobs started this petition to Arlington, Massachusetts school committee and

We, the Jewish and non-Jewish Arlington school community members disagree with the decision to schedule the first day of school on Rosh Hashana, a two-day long high holiday in the Jewish calendar and one of the most important days of observance in the Jewish year. We would like the first day of school to start the following day. We are asking for sensitivity and consideration especially for the first day of the 2021 school year because of its particular importance due to students reconnecting in-person in school after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The current arrangement puts Jewish families in a position to have to choose between their faith and their kids' adjustment to a new school year after a very disruptive year. Choosing to begin the first day of school, a day that is so important in terms of the kids reconnecting, on a day that observant Jews can’t send their children is intensely alienating to the Jewish community. Why should parents choose between their children’s spiritual well-being and their children’s social well-being?

We are not asking for a new school holiday – instead, we are just asking that the first day of school be scheduled one day later out of sensitivity to Jewish families. It seems the school committee was aware that scheduling the first day of school on Rosh Hashana was not ideal: three out of seven committee members voted against it because they were aware of Rosh Hashana‘s importance. 

Although Dr. Bodie stated, in support of choosing the first day of the 2021 school year to begin on Rosh Hashana, that in prior years only a small number of students have taken the second day of Rosh Hashana off from school, small numbers do not justify excluding any students, especially those from communities that have challenges in being actively welcomed and included as valued members of Arlington Public Schools. When Jewish community members are made to choose between their kids social and academic life and their spiritual life, more Jews will feel forced to send their kids to school on the holdiay. Arlington Jewish families shouldn't be put in a position to make this decision at all. Faulting those families for choosing school in the past when faced with two unappealing options is like saying that because these families endured a bad situation in the past and dealt with it, there is no need to remedy the situation. Its not a useful argument.

The Jewish community has gone through a lot lately, and being sensitive to this would mean so much after several years of increasing amounts of anti-Jewish expression both in this community and beyond. A decision like ignoring a Jewish high holiday on the first day of school after a pandemic really seems tone-deaf at this point in time. For a community that prides itself on its inclusivity and acceptance, this does not feel like a decision designed to consider inclusion.

Thank you for your consideration. We implore you to help us make this change.

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The undersigned are members of the Arlington community, both Jewish and non-Jewish, who strongly urge the Arlington School Committee to reassign the first day of school 2021/2022 to a day after the second day of Rosh Hashana.

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