Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Simchat Torah, oh my! This year, all of the major Jewish Holidays were squeezed into the span of what felt like a few days, and although Jewish Students on campus were eager to celebrate the high holidays, it was almost impossible to do so without missing a significant portion of classes right from the beginning of the quarter.
Yom Kippur, a holiday that focuses on atonement and includes a 24 hour fast as an act of devotion to show Hashem how serious we are about having our names written down in the sacred book of life, arguably one of the most important holidays, fell on a wednesday in the middle of the week this year. After looking at the calendar and realizing this, my immediate thought was, I won’t be going to class that day, but this decision is not as easy for others to make. In the days leading up to yom kippur, I talked to my peers who also celebrate the holiday, and was shocked to hear that they would be observing the holiday while going to classes. Not eating or drinking anything the whole day and still needing to function well enough to understand a lecture or perform an accurate titration in lab? How are we supposed to be free to fulfill the tradition of properly celebrating a holiday if there are consequences for not going to class? This brings up one the most pressing issues posed to modern day Judaism, a classic damned if you and damned if you don’t scenario.
Having a Jewish identity and wanting to practice your religion is a tough path to follow in a secularized society, one in which morals and principles vary from person to person. However, it is almost as though we who choose to observe our religion in the greater UCLA population are being punished for making this decision; one holiday that demands our presence is followed by another and by the time the festivities have ran their course, we come back to class only to realize the amount of work that must be done so as not to fall behind even more. There currently exists no balance between the private way we choose to practice religion and the demands of a rigorously academic university. The Los Angeles Unified School District, which is government-funded just as UCLA is, gave time to all 565,479 students and about 75,000 staff members to celebrate Rosh Hashanah And Yom Kippur. Why then, must a UC school with a population of 47,518 students enforce classes on these days?
In a world where we have every option available to us, a slew of choices right at our fingertips, it is up to us to make the conscious decision of either partaking in classic traditions, or to let others observe these traditions on our behalf. It is great to have so many options, to be free to celebrate or not celebrate as you wish, but this should be a decision that one makes at their own will, not one that we are coerced into making.