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