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New Year Debate Shining On Edison

New Year Debate Shining On Edison

Is Rosh HaShanah a one-day or two-day holy day?

The answer divides American Jewry — Reform Jews keep one day, most other identified Jews keep two.

Now a public school district in New Jersey is debating the question.The Edison school board announced recently that it was considering holding classes in October on both days of the Jewish New Year, which had been school holidays for several decades. At a school board meeting this month attended by some 300 irate members of the township’s Jewish community, the board offered a change in the proposed schedule, observing one day of Rosh HaShanah but holding classes the next day.

The board is to vote again Monday and take a final vote in April.Rabbi Bernhard Rosenberg of Congregation Beth-El in Edison says he is advising the Jewish community to accept “no compromise.”

“The entire community is outraged,” Rabbi Rosenberg, a community activist, said in a phone interview. “They feel their Jewish rights are being violated.”

The rabbi did not know the number of affected Jewish students in the Edison public schools, but estimated that at least 15 percent of the system’s teachers are Jewish.

The school board, which did not return a call for comment, had explained that it needed to eliminate the Rosh HaShanah days off in order to hold classes on the state-mandated minimum 180 days between Sept. 6, the day after Labor Day, and June 15, when graduation exercises will be held at the Rutgers University athletic center before basketball camps start there.

By starting the school year the second week of September to accommodate Labor Day vacations and ending in mid-June because of the Rutgers schedule, the school board said it had to make up the lost school days during the year.

“Why did they pick on Rosh HaShanah?” Rabbi Rosenberg asked, suggesting that the school year start earlier or end later than now planned.

He said the Anti-Defamation League of New Jersey and the Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County are also working to have both holy days reinstated as days off.

Rabbi Rosenberg noted that “I’m getting tremendous support from the Christian community. They’re appalled.”

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