diversity

Don’t schedule important events on major Jewish holidays

A lot of things get scheduled on major Jewish holidays, in a way that prevents Jews from being able to participate. This needs to stop. 

If you’re in charge of scheduling things like:

  • Protests
  • Conferences
  • Public school orientations
  • College orientations
  • Exam schedules
  • Field trips
  • Other important events

Please avoid scheduling on major Jewish holidays. The most important ones to avoid are:

  • Rosh Hashana
  • Yom Kippur
  • The first two nights of Passover 

These holidays are at slightly different times each year, because the Jewish calendar is lunar. Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are in the fall, Passover is in the Spring. You can check when they are at hebcal.com, and hebcal.com also has a calendar you can subscribe to that says when the holidays are.

Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are the times at which Jews who don’t go to synagogue at any other time of year go. (In the same way that some Christians only go to church on Easter and Christmas). They are also major family holidays, even for people who are otherwise secular. Yom Kippur is a 25 hour fast (from both food and water) and most people who observe it are pretty wiped out immediately afterwards. 

The first two nights of Passover are when Jewish families hold Passover seders. It’s a major family holiday, even for people who do not consider themselves religious and never go to synagogue at all. Nearly all Jewish families have some sort of seder. 

It is considerate to also avoid scheduling important events that would require travel on the day before and after these major holidays. It is critical to avoid scheduling events on the holidays themselves.

There are other Jewish holidays that will create conflicts for some Jews, but they’re not as important to most Jewish people. 

tl;dr: If you value Jewish participation and solidarity with Jews, it is critically important to avoid scheduling important events on on Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, and the first two nights of Passover.

ASL is a language

American Sign Language and other signed languages are languages. It’s important to respect them as languages.

ASL is not English. It is a completely different language. Similarly, signed languages aren’t all the same. British Sign Language is completely different from ASL.

Signs are not universal, any more than spoken words are universal. The meaning of a sign isn’t always obvious just by watching; many signs are completely arbitrary.

Sign is not pantomime, and it’s not ad hoc gesture. It’s also not like symbolic gestures that are sometimes made up to accompany kids songs either. It’s a language, with all the complexities of language. The difference is important, and it needs to be respected. 

In order to know what signs mean, you have to learn them. (Just like in order to know what spoken words mean, you have to learn them.)

ASL is not just gestures, any more than spoken languages are just sounds. ASL has grammar, vocabulary, and culture. It’s important to respect this and not erase it.  

A thought on making difference ok

One issue with accommodations and modifications in school, is that it can often be hard to avoid stigma. Kids don’t usually like being singled out or doing things conspicuously differently. Also, nondisabled kids often resent it when disabled kids are allowed to do things that they are not allowed to do.

Further, one frequent objection to accommodations is “but if I let one kid do this, then all the other kids will want to.”

Sometimes that’s true — and, often, the best solution to that problem is to just let all the kids do whatever the thing is. Sometimes there’s no good reason to restrict access to something. Sometimes changing the rule works better than making exceptions to it.

One way that something works to correct this problem is to make some of their accommodations available to other kids who would like to try them. The kid who has a documented need for accommodations probably isn’t the only one who would benefit from them.

And even aside from that, it’s good for kids to explore the world and experiment with different ways of doing things. This is a good way to learn that difference is normal, and that doing things differently is a basic fact of life.

For instance, if one kid needs to use manipulatives for math, maybe try making manipulatives available to all the kids. 

If one kid needs a large print worksheet, maybe make a few large print copies and let kids try doing it that way.

If one kid needs to chew stuff, maybe make things available for other kids to chew.

If one kid needs to use fidget toys, maybe make them available to all the kids who would like to try it.

If one kid needs to type, and you have the resources to make that available to other kids too, maybe let them try doing assignments that way. And let the kids that works better for continue to do it.

And, beyond that, it helps to get in the habit of providing different ways to do things even when there isn’t a kid who needs them as a specific accommodation. 

Not in the sense of “take a walk in the disabled kid’s shoes”, this is not a disability simulation. The point shouldn’t be empathy building, and it should not be presented as being about the disabled kid. The message is “there are a lot of legitimate ways to do things, and it’s ok to experiment and figure out what works for you, even if most people don’t do it the same way as you”.

You can’t always do this, and you can’t always do this for everything. When you can, it helps, a lot.

A school project not to assign

If you are a teacher, do not ask your students to make a family tree as a school assignment. *Especially* do not do this as a class art project to be posted on the wall.

A lot of kids have very complicated families, and complicated feelings about which words to use for which people.

For instance: Some kids call multiple people “mom”. Sometimes this is because they’re being raised by a lesbian couple. Sometimes this is because they are adopted and also maintaining a relationship with their mother who gave birth to them. Sometimes this is because their parents divorced and remarried and they also see their stepparents as parents. None of these relationships map easily onto a family tree project.

Some kids don’t have any parents at all. This isn’t something that they should have to tell their peers if they don’t want to. 

Some kids aren’t sure who their parents are. Is it the people who adopted them when they were a baby and disrupted when they were six? The person who gave birth to them? The people they’re living with now? The one nice staff in their group home? The person they’re in foster care with who they’re hoping will eventually adopt them? It’s complicated and not ok to ask kids to declare this in writing in front of everyone.

There are any number of emotionally fraught and complicated situations that go along with describing families. It’s not good to have kids do that as part of an assignment, unless you’re working in a context in which getting people to do emotionally fraught things is appropriate.