On Nov. 5, the Board of Education of Baltimore County approved school closings on Jewish and Muslim holidays, which garnered mixed reactions. Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) will close May 13 (Eid al-Fitr) and Sept. 28 (Yom Kippur) of 2020. But both days are slated to be professional development days for teachers.
“We live in a climate where the religious community is under attack,” said Zainab Chaudry, Maryland director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), who was happy that children will not be expected to attend school on Eid. “This sends a message to children that they are valued, matter, and seen. They are respected, and able to recognize their holidays with their family.”
Some were disappointed that teachers would still meet that day.
“I think it is unfair that there will be information heard that I won’t be privy to. I certainly don’t think it will be fair for someone to expect me to make it up,” said a Jewish teacher from Baltimore City, who requested that her name not be published.
“I’m going to miss out on information that I may need for teaching, and it will anger me, which will certainly not help morale. It’s certainly not inclusive,” she said. She emphasized that Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the Jewish year, and the decision shows apathy for Jewish teachers.
BCPS did not reply to multiple requests for comment.
“While we would have preferred that the Jewish holidays be days off for students, teachers, principals, and staff, we understood their decision, given the tight calendar restrictions that they faced,” said Howard Libit, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council.
He has requested that the board avoids scheduling athletic and extracurricular events on the Friday and Saturday of Rosh Hashanah.
“I hope that the school system will respect the many Jewish students, teachers, and staff by honoring that request,” said Libit.
“I think the one thing worth emphasizing is religious pluralism is a hallmark of democracy,” said Chaudry. She believes this is “an important step in the right direction.”