DCPS shouldn’t hold school on Jewish high holidays

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Graphic by Josephine Schneider

Emma Ludgin

I love being Jewish. It allows me to stand out—to be unique. I look forward to sacred Jewish holidays such as Yom Kippur and Passover year round, but have also begun to dread them immensely. The necessity to  skip a day of school in order to attend services, and allow myself to focus on worshipping, means piles of make-up work will be waiting for me at home. My teachers don’t understand why I missed school; all they worry about is the work that needs to get done and the time it needs to turned in. I find myself worrying about school mid-service when I should really be focusing on the Hebrew’s escape from Egypt.

This has been an ongoing struggle for me and many other minority religious groups. As a child I always wondered why my Christian friends were allowed school off on their holidays and I wasn’t. Were their holidays more important than mine? Did teachers care more about them than me? I soon realized, while chatting to friends nationwide, that DC is one of the only places in the northeast coast where school is held on Jewish holidays. Counties in Connecticut, Florida, California, and Maryland all take school off for these celebrations, so why not DC, considering it’s extremely rich in cultural diversity?

After talking to Jews who experience the same issues, a common theme was established: we simply want to be acknowledged. Last year, many Jewish students, including me, had to miss picture day because of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. It wasn’t missing picture day we were upset about, it was what this implied. Apparently, DCPS doesn’t care whether people of minority religions miss “important” days like these, be it picture day or an imperative science test, making me, and many others, feel neglected, alone, and silenced.  

Although it is clear why DCPS should not hold school on Jewish high holidays, some may disagree. In fact, 0.2% of the world population practices Judaism, so why should we dedicate so much effort to recognize such a small population? Some may argue that we should only grant recognition to Christian holidays, the religious majority. In reality we must celebrate all to unite. 

It’s time that the students take a stand. I’m sure you’ve signed a petition started by Amirah Kalonji, a freshman at Banneker, stating the importances of why DCPS should allow school to be off on Jewish (and Muslim) high holidays, as it has been circulating social media platforms. Although it may seem hopeless, there are things we, Wilson students, can do to make sure that our voices are heard. Sign petitions such as the one stated above on change.org, email DCPS staff, and spread the message to friends! It may take baby steps, but our opinions are crucial to making sure that all students at Wilson feel appreciated and recognized.