The holiday hypocrisy

How Shorewood’s holiday breaks affect Jewish students

by Molly Krulewitch, Business Manager

It’s warm in the synagogue and a symphony of voices rings out in harmony as the curtains to the Aron Kodesh are opened. I lean my head on my mom’s shoulder and try to enjoy my time with my family and my community, but all I can think about is the full day of classes I’m currently missing. 

Missing school and making up work is something most, if not all, religious Jewish kids are used to when they don’t attend private Jewish day school. The Jewish Day School in Bellevue, where I was privileged to attend middle school, averages around $20,000 per year. Without financial aid, I and many others wouldn’t have been able to attend. 

Transitioning to a public high school from an all-Jewish school in the first place was a huge shift, it felt like moving to a big city after living in a small country town my whole life. People would throw around holocaust jokes like it was no big deal, and there were the awkward history classes where the non-Jewish teacher would try to explain Judaism and end up pronouncing it incorrectly. All that being said, explaining to teachers about how you’re going to have to miss a few days at the beginning of the year can be more than a little bit stressful. 

At Shorewood, it is recommended that students push themselves academically to take two or more AP classes past sophomore year. These classes often move at a very fast pace, so missing a day of school can be detrimental to your grade or even basic understanding of the topics being covered. 

“There’s been increased attention paid to flexibility in the calendar,” according to Principal Bill Dunbar. He added that over the past few years, the district has been making themselves “more aware” of the many religious holidays and observances in the community, although it remains unclear why we have Christmas off from school but not any other holidays. He said that the Shoreline School District strives to help students get the best education they can while maintaining family traditions and religious holiday observances.

The separation of church and state is an important facet in American society, and I support it fully, although not having a policy regarding school work on religious holidays leaves room for teachers to be unaccommodating and uneducated about minority groups and important traditions that hold us together as communities. 

Despite the district board of education and teachers’ union working together to create the calendar for the school year, and Shorewood’s attempts to be accommodating, many students don’t feel supported including myself. 

Even though most teachers do give extensions, the missed class time is extremely hard to make up. With safety guidelines at lunch because of COVID, and SAS being only 35 mins long, it doesn’t leave much time for needed breaks during the day. One thing that would’ve helped me this past year, especially in my AP classes, was if the teacher recorded the class so that people who missed it could watch it after ther holiday ended and they wouldn’t be as behind, making it easier to catch up.

Overall, I know Shorewood is a more accepting school than a lot of others, and I’m grateful as well as lucky that all of my teachers have been understanding, but leaving class policy regarding holidays up to individual teachers may cause more harm    than good for Jewish students.