Every year, there’s a plethora of Jewish holidays all squished together during the fall season. From Rosh Hashanah to Simchat Torah, Jews are busy observing the holidays by attending shul, fasting on Yom Kippur and more. Many Jewish students miss an excessive amount of classes because the Torah prohibits work on these holy days. The University of Maryland tries to be accommodating with its religious absence policy, and while the policy is helpful, students still return from holidays completely overwhelmed.
What’s so unfortunate is how overwhelming it can be trying to make up for all the missed work. Transitioning to college comes with having to make several adjustments and tweaks for everyone, But for many students who grew up attending Jewish private schools, this transition can be even more of a shock.
Missing so much school puts students in a hard position; they may even begin questioning whether observing the holidays is worth the stress that will come with it during the fall semester. The Jewish holiday season is a spiritual time. It is a shame when students succumb to the pressure of schoolwork and forget about enjoying the holiday. Instead, they focus on the restrictions the holidays present on academic success.
Of course, at a public university, we can’t expect to have the holidays off. Jewish students choose to come here regardless of the fact that they do not get holidays off. And although this university tries its best to accommodate students, it sometimes just isn’t enough.
University policy restricts professors from scheduling tests and major assignments on certain holidays. However, it doesn’t do much good. If professors schedule the test for the day right after the conclusion of a holiday, that doesn’t leave Jewish students any time to study or make up work from missed classes that might help them understand the concepts.
So how can we find a happy medium for observant Jewish students and the rest of the student population? First, stricter enforcement of religious absence policies would be helpful. Often, when students inform their teachers of their absence on days there are quizzes, teachers respond by saying the lowest couple quizzes will be dropped at the end of the semester anyway. Is that “accommodation” really fair?
Additionally, professors should schedule exams further away from the actual holidays.This would give Jewish students time to actually prepare for their tests. Providing extra office hours for people who can’t attend classes and assigning less work on those given days are other small accommodations that would be incredibly valuable.