This year, as in any other year, Yale’s class schedule will not change for Rosh Hashana, and while members of Yale’s Jewish community expressed frustration with the scheduling conflict, few are demanding a change.
The Jewish New Year, which runs from sundown on Sunday to sundown on Tuesday, usually coincides with class days on the Yale College calendar. For many Jewish students and professors, the overlap presents a challenge, but students and professors interviewed recognized the need to work around the inconvenience.
“It’s frustrating, but understandable,” Yale Hillel Co-President Gabby Deutch ’18 said. “Yale doesn’t cancel for holidays of other faiths, and professors have been very apologetic and very understanding.”
No Ivy League schools suspend classes for Jewish holidays, or for any other faith. Last year, the Yale College calendar drew considerable ire for ending finals on Dec. 22, which many students felt gave them too little time to travel home for Christmas. However, this overlap between classes and Rosh Hashana is not as controversial among Yale undergraduates, about a quarter of whom are Jewish.
Yale Hillel Co-President Michael Zanger-Tishler ’18 echoed Deutch’s remarks.
“As far as I know, there have never not been classes on either days of Rosh Hashana, except when specific professors have canceled them,” Zanger-Tishler said. “Therefore this [discussion] usually takes place and comes up. However, I have never had any issues with missing classes and everyone is extremely accommodating.”
Yale University Chaplain Sharon Kugler wrote an email to the News that “faculty make good faith efforts to help our students meet their religious obligations as well as their academic demands.”
This fall, the Chaplain’s Office sent an email to all Yale faculty and staff alerting the community to five fall religious holidays that require work restrictions and impact students academically.
Kugler said that the purpose of the letter was to help staff members make accommodations for religious holidays. Faculty and staff should respect the religious needs of all community members, the letter said.
The Jewish community is not alone in scheduling conflicts. In September, several students encountered similar scheduling conflicts when they observed the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha. Mahmoude Bakhtiar ’20, a member of the Muslim Students Association, said he missed a class for the holiday, but received a dean’s excuse.
“Even with a dean’s excuse, I fell behind a lot in class,” Bakhtiar said. “It doesn’t feel like a holiday if you have to worry about classes.”
Another MSA member, Rashid Akbari ’20 did attend class during Eid al-Adha for fear of getting behind on schoolwork. Akbari said he felt pressured to attend class in order to keep up with his work.
Jewish faculty must also shift their work schedules to observe religious holidays.
For English professor Shifra Sharlin, classes during Rosh Hashana have compelled her to break up her two Monday English 120 classes into smaller office-hour sessions later this week.
“Students are incredibly busy, I don’t see why they should accommodate my religious beliefs,” Sharlin said. “The fair burden is on me to schedule makeup options to fit their schedules.”
Sharlin’s decision to break up her class into office-hour sessions is unusual, as most official make-up classes are commonly held during reading period. Sharlin added that Rosh Hashana’s coinciding with the beginning of the fall semester is inconvenient, but she finds it more convenient to hold makeup classes sooner in the semester.
The University Calendar Committee, a group of students, administrators and faculty, sets the annual academic schedule. Former Associate Yale College Dean and member of the Calendar Committee John Meeske ’74 told the News in 2013 that trade-offs are always necessary and that there is no perfect calendar that satisfies everyone.
“I think many Jewish students on campus are used to navigating conflicts between religious and secular life,” said Jacob Prince ’18, who is Jewish. “This is really nothing new.”
The Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale is holding services and events throughout the two-day holiday.