Wednesday, August 11, 2010

COMMENTARY: American Public Schools Must Be Open on Non-Christian Holy Days

The Providence, Rhode Island School District recently deleted Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur on the public school calendar, which means that these Jewish High Holidays will no longer be vacation days in the Providence public schools.

Marty Cooper, community relations director of the Jewish Federation of Rhode Island, made it very clear that this action is not to be considered as prejudice against Jews, when he said, "This is not an act of anti-Semitism."

The fact is that the Jewish population in Providence has been declining in recent years, while the population of other religious groups -- including Muslims -- has been growing.

At the same time, Islamic and other religious groups have lobbied to have their holidays included as vacation days on school calendars in several U.S. communities in recent years.

Since the United States is a predominantly Christian country, it is correct for its local communities to close their schools on Christian holidays -- such as Christmas and Good Friday -- but to keep schools open, regardless of other (minority) religious holidays. This includes the Eastern Orthodox Good Friday -- which is usually celebrated a week or two after the Catholic and Protestant Good Friday -- despite the fact that Eastern Orthodoxy is the second largest branch of Christianity (after Roman Catholicism).

To allow minority religions in the United States -- Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism, among others -- to close the public schools during each one's holy days, would indeed have a significant negative impact on the learning process of public school students.

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