Observing Rosh Hashana no problem for shoppers

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Photo by Zeenat Mansoor.

Sloane Heller ’12 asked a professor Wednesday to let her take a seminar she has never attended. The class, “Methods and Ethics in Global Health Research” meets Friday mornings, but Heller missed the first week and will be in synagogue for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and won’t be able to reserve her place in the class in person, as the rules of shopping period typically require.

“It’s a little odd, because I have to decide if I want to take the class without having ever been to it, and I have to ask the professor if I can take it, without ever having been to it,” she said. “Religious observances are more important than shopping period.”

The Jewish New Year officially began at sundown Wednesday and is celebrated through sundown Friday. During the holiday, observant Jews attend prayer services and communal meals, and are not allowed to work or attend class. The holiday usually falls in September and has conflicted with shopping period in the past.

Shua Rosenstein, of Yale Chabad, said that he has never seen a student who has requested permission to miss a class to celebrate Rosh Hashanah be turned down or lose a place in a class for that reason.

“If students of any religion have a religious observance that conflicts with a class or an exam or shopping period, Yale professors and faculty do their best to take that into consideration and help students keep from falling behind on the material,” he said.

Freshmen, who are still learning the ropes and rules of Yale and are new to the customs of shopping period, are more concerned about the conflict, Rosenstein said. Between 20 and 30 freshmen have approached him in the past few weeks to ask about how to handle the problem, he said.

After Nina Wexelblatt ’14 woke up at 5 a.m. to wait outside LC to reserve her place in English 120, she was concerned she might have to attend class through Rosh Hashanahh to cement her spot in the course.

“I was worried because they say that if you don’t show up for one day, you can’t take the class at all,” she said.

But when she e-mailed her professor to say she would be attending services, he said he would keep her on the roster.

Shayna Otis ’14 also requested permission to miss her lectures and seminar to celebrate Rosh Hashanah with friends in Long Island. She said figuring out her classes was very straightforward since she is taking mostly math. Many of her friends, she said, also had little difficulty because they have figured out their course schedules. (Freshman schedules are due Monday.)

Many professors make accommodations for their students when they know that many members of their classes will be observing the New Year. Professor Shiri Goren, who teaches three classes in Judaic Studies this semester on Israeli culture and society, for instance, cancelled her Thursday class and will hold make-up sessions for students after the holiday.

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