School district’s decision to cut Rosh Hashanah observance from 2 days off to 1 angers community
The Randolph School District announced that starting next school year, students and teachers will only have one day off for the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah instead of two. It was a decision that has become quite controversial in the town.
"I never thought in a million years I’d be experiencing or advocating for what we are having to advocate for, which is being Jewish,” says Bonnie Rosenthal.
As a lifelong Randolph resident, Rosenthal and her father Meyer are expressing frustration and anger, which they say is felt through the community, regarding another vote to remove the second day of Rosh Hashanah on the school calendar. The holiday, also known as the Jewish new year, is one of the holiest days in the religion’s calendar.
“It’s not Rosh Hashanah Day 1 or Day 2. It’s Rosh Hashanah as one holiday that is two days,” says Rosenthal. “Is it ignorance? Maybe it is. Is it the fact they refuse to understand even though the board members are stating, ‘We’re listening. We understand.’ No, you don’t.”
This isn't the first time Randolph school officials are facing controversy over the calendar. Last spring, the Board of Education voted to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous People's Day. After pushback from the Italian American community - they removed all named holidays from the school calendar, before reversing that decision altogether following national criticism.
When the board first made this decision in November, members say they were attempting to fit all holidays into the school year. A vote to reverse that November decision failed earlier this week. The Rosenthals say the fight is far from over to observe these holy days the way the town has for 30 years.
Board members say they will monitor attendance on Rosh Hashanah next fall to help with decisions moving forward. Students who miss school to observe the holiday will be given an excused absence.
Gov. Phil Murphy also commented on the issue on News 12’s “Ask Gov. Murphy” show.
“Listen, we’ve got to give people the latitude to celebrate their faith and respectfully worship in their faith, so I find that unacceptable. I don't know what else to say,” the governor said.
Randolph school officials have not yet returned a request for comment on this story.