OU Strongly Criticizes School District’s Decision to Drop Policy of Closing for Jewish Holidays

Posted on February 23, 2000 In Press Releases

Today, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization, through its Institute for Public Affairs, strongly criticized the decision of an Ohio public school district from giving its students a day off on the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanna and Yom Kippur.

The Sycamore Community School District adopted as a pilot program two years ago the practice of giving students days off on the Jewish high holidays of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. With a high percentage of Jewish students, these were days of high absences in the district’s schools which were found to be disruptive to the curriculum. The ACLU sued in federal district court asserting that this policy violates the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause.

Institute for Public Affairs director Nathan Diament stated that “one can certainly assume that the ACLU’s misguided lawsuit played a role in this decision by the school board. Where the ACLU choose to see the improper establishment of religion one could just as soon see the appropriate accommodation of students’ religious needs or a school district’s need to avoid disruptions in its teaching enterprise.

As far back as 1980, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand the upholding of a local school district’s policy on the observance of religious holidays which included a provision that the ‘school calendar should be prepared so as to minimize conflicts with religious holidays.’ The school board now asserts that a 15% absentee rate on Jewish holidays is not sufficient to warrant closing the school; we think this should not be solely a question of numbers, but of making all students feel welcome in a pluralistic community. Now, the Jewish students who wish to observe their holidays are made to feel like outsiders, and that’s just wrong.”