Jewish students face conflict: prom or Passover?


Aria Frangos

Carlmont students of Jewish faith have two conflicts this year between religious and high school tradition.

Aria Frangos, Scot Scoop Editor

Important high school traditions are conflicting with religious commitments as the Carlmont Welcome Back assembly and prom coincide with the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Passover.

Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year: a day to spend in temple, reflecting on the past and looking to the future, praying and giving thanks. The Welcome Back assembly is a Carlmont tradition meant to get students pumped up for the school year, and it is one of the four big assemblies of the year.

Many Jewish students were upset about this conflict and have spoken out about their feelings on the scheduling.

“I was putting all the important school dates like the Welcome Back assembly into my phone calendar and noticed that directly on the planner it had both Rosh Hashanah and the assembly, side by side,” said junior Alyssa Feigelson. “I was pretty upset, because Rosh Hashanah is a really major Jewish holiday.”

On Rosh Hashanah, many Jewish students miss school to be in temple all day. This year, that religious commitment will mean missing the Welcome Back assembly.

“We have a guest speaker scheduled for the Welcome Back assembly who was booked last year,” said Carlmont Associated Student Body (ASB) advisor Jim Kelly. “He is an incredibly hard speaker to book, and there was only one possible day we could have him come. That day unfortunately happened to be on Rosh Hashanah.”

An even more significant clash of tradition occurred in the conflict of the first day of Passover and Carlmont prom. Passover is the celebration of the liberation of the Jewish people from ancient Egyptian slavery, and one of the most important holidays of the religion.

Feigelson, along with some of her friends like sophomore Eli Melmon, started a petition on Sept. 3 to have administration change the dates of prom and the assembly. They have since gained over 1,000 signatures from Carlmont students and alumni as well as others.

“My mom told me about these conflicts about a month ago. I had expected changes to the dates to be made on their own, that an administrative staff member would notice the conflicts and find a way to change them,” said Melmon. “I hadn’t looked back into the issue since my mom mentioned it, and realizing that they hadn’t changed the dates made me very upset, like my religion was being discriminated against.”

The petition was an attempt to raise awareness of the conflicts, and gained quick support. The petition, however, was not the catalyst that caused ASB to try to change the dates.

“I’m not working on it just because of the petition,” said Kelly. “We’ve been working on this conflict for over a month now. The petition in my mind serves as a strongly-voiced opinion, and they [the petition writers] have never talked to me about the details. It is a very emotional issue and I totally understand. I can show factually and logically how the conflict occurred, but it won’t make them feel better about missing prom.”

The process for scheduling school events is a detailed one. The first document used to check for conflicts is the official school district calendar, which lists school holidays and other days on which events cannot be scheduled.

The second document that ASB checks with is unofficial, but includes more filters, including Jewish holidays. Administration also looks over the proposed date for events, and performing arts directors and athletics coaches are notified to check for further possible conflict.

In the case of prom, even all of the detail put into avoiding conflict was nullified by a factor that was unacknowledged by the Google Calendar’s filter for Judaism: Jewish holidays start at sundown on the day before they technically “begin.”

When Google Calendar’s “Jewish Holidays” filter listed Passover as beginning on April 23, it did not include the detail that its celebration actually begins on Friday night, April 22. The Carlmont student planner also lists Passover as beginning on April 23.

No matter the manner in how the conflict occurred, it still affects Jewish students.

“Yesterday, [Feigelson] reblogged a post on Tumblr about Anti-Semitism in the world, and how many companies, workplaces, and schools were not respecting Jewish holidays as they would Christian or other holidays,” said Melmon. “She added on to the post, mentioning the conflicts that our school had. I had hoped that the awareness we raised in the student community at Carlmont would be loud enough to make the administrative staff realize that it was a bigger conflict than it seemed.”

Melmon and Feigelson have a meeting with administration to discuss the conflicts scheduled for Sept. 8.

ASB, meanwhile, is still looking for a solution. “We booked the Galleria for prom last year, and we had to commit to secure that venue,” said Kelly. “We asked a lot of people when deciding the date. The emotional impact on the kids affected by the conflict has kept me awake at night. I care, and we’re trying.”