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Sorely Disappointed

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Poor Frume Sarah. Another day, another cause for vexation.

Dear Parents,

With the focus on providing additional opportunities for Jewish life and community participation, the leadership of the So-and_So Jewish Community Center approved the extension of hours on Shabbat and the Jewish holidays. We are delighted by the positive impact this decision will have on the preschool.

Our new holiday schedule begins in September at the beginning of the 2010/2011 school year. The expanded days include the first two days of Sukkot, Shimini Atzeret, Simchat Torah, Passover and Shavuot. These days will be included in the schedule for our full day and ITC students at no additional charge. Half day and plus day students will have the opportunity to register for holiday activities.

In addition to the added convenience for working parents, we will have the opportunity to celebrate holidays together and explore their deeper meanings. Image your child shaking the lulav and etrog on the first days of Sukkot; marching around the campus with our own “Torahs”, and eating our first Matzah together on Passover. With the opportunity to experience the essence of each special day through sensory activities, stories and celebration, these days will be designed to help our children feel the spirit and beauty of our holiday traditions.

We look forward to the celebration of these holidays with our JCC community.

Shalom,

Plonit-bat-Plonit

Director, ECLC

Dear Plonit-bat-Plonit,

I imagine that yesterday’s email regarding the Holy Day openings was received with a great deal of relief by most of the working parents in the school. After all, there are only a handful of us who observe the prohibition of working on the Shalosh R’galim. And while it certainly makes life just a little easier, I am deeply troubled by the message that is being sent to our youngest generation of Jews and their parents.

How ironic that the decision to open the ECLC (Early Childhood Learning Center) on the Chagim is being communicated in the very week that the Torah portion (Parashat Emor) includes a clear injunction against work on the Festivals. “On the first day you shall celebrate a sacred occasion: you shall not work at your occupations…The seventh day shall be a sacred occasion: you shall not work at your occupations (Lev. 23:7-8).”

Keeping a Jewish preschool open on these sacred days clearly contradicts the mitzvah regarding work and fails to model proper Jewish behaviour. All of the activities described above can most certainly occur during Chol HaMoed or, in the case of Shavuot, in the days immediately preceding the Chag. And what is to become of the Jewish employees? Will they be expected to work on days when work is forbidden? Whether or not a Jewish employee chooses to observe Halacha is a private matter. However, a Jewish employer requiring a fellow kinsman to work on Shabbos or Yom Tov is a clear violation of Jewish Law.

It would be unreasonable, given the history and culture of the JCCA, for a JCC to adhere to the strictest letter of the Law. However, I do expect it to create a culture that upholds the spirit of the Law. As Rabbi Isaac Klein points out (A Guide to Jewish Religious Practice, 96), “the festivals are the moments of exultation that dot the Jewish year and elevate it from domination by the workaday world.” The recent choice to extend the Fitness Center hours on Shabbos to match the hours on Sunday suggests that Saturday is regarded as just another weekend day. Similarly, opening the Center on some of the most sacred days of our year suggests that they are seen as another other day.

I am profoundly disappointed in this new policy, having long been proud that our Jewish Community Center kept the “J” at the center of its mission, and would urge the leadership to take a deeper look at this matter.

Sincerely,

Frume Sarah

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16 Comments leave one →
  1. Tuesday, 27 April 2010 4:20 pm

    I find it sad and for exactly the reasons you said. I try to take the chagim off…at least the first day…but my employer isn’t Jewish and I am, admittedly, the only Jew in my entire county who is even remotely observant (seriously.) My employer doesn’t give me enough days off to be able to take the ones I’d like to but I find it vexing that a Jewish organization would kowtow to “populist” calendaring and just throw Jewish sacred days to the wind so easily. Yes, it’s nice that kids will observe holidays but what about the parents? There’s no incentive at all. Why not say, “lets make it even easier for you to be a Methodist?!”

    Very sad.

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Tuesday, 27 April 2010 9:20 pm

      indeed. I don’t expect the Jewish holidays to be an issue at a Jewish school. What a disappointment.

  2. Tuesday, 27 April 2010 7:19 pm

    {{{sigh}}}

    really!?

  3. Cindi Maggied Gellert permalink
    Tuesday, 27 April 2010 7:52 pm

    I’m very sad to read this … Your response is totally right on. Here’s hoping that it will make the appropriate impact.

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Tuesday, 27 April 2010 9:21 pm

      thanks. i would be struck dumb if my letter made any difference whatsoever. i’ll keep everyone posted 🙂

  4. Tuesday, 27 April 2010 9:53 pm

    I write many, MANY letters and I always think the same thing – “This probably won’t make a bit of difference.” However, one day, when I least expect it, I believe one of my letters will make some kind of impact and change something – no matter how small. Because I don’t know when this will happen, I have to keep writing JUST IN CASE the next letter is “the one.” Perhaps this will be “that” letter for you? I can see why you’re disappointed, though. The tone of the Jewish School letter is almost gleeful – “Hey, look what we’re doing to make your life easier and teach your kids lots more about Judaism!!” My first impression was, “But look what you’re NOT doing.” Good luck – hopefully, you’ll get a thoughtful response that will make a differnce!

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Wednesday, 28 April 2010 10:21 am

      I am guessing that the gleeful tone was their way of spinning it.

      I too write letters constantly. Started when I was a young girl with my letters to President Carter, urging for the release of Soviet Refusniks. I would like to believe that my efforts have given folks a reason to reconsider their positions.

  5. Wednesday, 28 April 2010 10:05 am

    I have returned to live in america almost 7 years ago. I left as a child. (I am from Israel). I am deeply disappointed and frustrated with the Reform communities. I am so impressed by you Sarah Keep it up. You are a glimmer of hope for moderate Jews everywhere.

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Wednesday, 28 April 2010 10:23 am

      Ruth,

      Thanks for your comment. Being Jewish in a non-Jewish society is a constant challenge. I’d like to think that I am able to help make it just a little easier.

      Point-of-clarification — this is a Jewish Community Center program. It is not affiliated with the Reform movement. I cannot imagine any Reform-sponsored school being open on the first and last days of the Chagim.

      Come back again!

  6. Wednesday, 28 April 2010 12:55 pm

    i love the letter writing for two reasons– first you’re standing up for what you believe in and as nancy mentioned, you really never know. it might strike a chord with someone and make the difference that you’re hoping for.

    and second, i love that you’re modeling standing up for your beliefs and taking action for your children. the two don’t always go hand in hand. your kids will remember you standing up for them and for you. what a completely fabulous lesson!

    looking forward to the update and sending lots of good thoughts your way!

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Wednesday, 28 April 2010 9:24 pm

      Thanks, Galit.

      When I told PC about this new policy, he reacted like I imagine most of the parents did. “Hey, that will make life so much easier for you!” Poor guy. Still after all these years…just can’t see it coming. Frume Sarah can’t leave well enough alone.

      I anxiously checked my email all day. No response from the school director, CEO of the JCC, or the President of the Board.

  7. Monday, 10 May 2010 8:15 pm

    “Imagine your child shaking the lulav and etrog” – because YOU, cherished parent, won’t be with your child to see it. You’ll be at work.
    We are delighted that we will no longer inconvenience you by forcing you to acknowledge one of the holiest days on the Jewish calendar – even if it was only by having to find alternative childcare.”

    Sad. 😦

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Monday, 10 May 2010 8:44 pm

      Really sad. The letter smacks of spin. As in “we know what we are doing is wrong but we’re gonna do it anyway AND come up with a Jewish reason why we think it’s OK.”

      As for inconvenience — this very same institution had it’s annual Mother’s Day celebration last week. Smack dab in the middle of a work day.

  8. Monday, 10 May 2010 9:32 pm

    The holidays are for the family. My eldest daughter misses us when she isn’t here. That is because we had them together as a family. I believe in giving support by helping the WHOLE FAMILY celebrate every festival I know that it is challenging but that doesn’t mean that we give up. The Jewish community center I feel has given up. Keep on trying Sarah there are others like you that won’t stop trying to help families realize their Jewish roots and have a meaningful Chag.

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