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Life Lessons 015: Navigating High Holy Day Class Conflicts

by Scott Aaron

On many North American campuses, the High Holy Days fall on class days and often conflict with quizzes or midterms. Your college may or may not easily accommodate your missing classes and tests for religious reasons--there is no legal requirement that the school do so. This is not a matter of anti-Jewish discrimination but rather the difficulty of accommodating the needs of diverse communities on many college campuses. So here's what you can do:

Inform instructors of your planned absence for religious reasons in advance (otherwise the campus administration will not intervene on your behalf). Most schools require classroom instructors to accommodate religious absences when prearranged by students (though the specifics regarding class and test make-ups are usually left to the discretion of the instructor).

If your instructor is not aware of the importance of the High Holidays, furnish a note from your local Hillel or home rabbi.

If, despite your taking the above measures, your instructor refuses to honor your request for an excused absence, request the assistance of the chair of the academic department, your class dean, the college vice president for academic affairs, and/or the campus ombudsman, as well as the local Hillel staff.

--Scott Aaron, author of Jewish U: A Contemporary Guide for the Jewish College Student (URJ Press), from which this is adapted


Union for Reform Judaism.