FROM RABBI BAYAR:
You may have heard of the issue concerning religious holidays being discussed by the Millburn Board of Education. Over the past decade our township has expanded its demographic to include other cultures and religions. I believe this change has been beneficial to all concerned. Multicultural communities are stronger communities. However, this expansion has resulted in a perceived insensitivity to religious observances not recognized by the school calendar.
Currently there is a suggestion being discussed at the Board of Education to remove all religious holidays from the school calendar. In this way the school system would be perceived as treating everyone equally.
I believe that this would be a serious mistake for our township community.
It is not my intention to speak for other religious communities or pretend to know of other cultural observances. What I do know is that Jewish Holy Days of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are observed with restrictions that require our students to stay out of school. In our tradition holiness is equated with restriction.
While I favor a separation of Church/State – I am against giving away religious rights of observance that were obtained through the democratic process with much effort and struggle.
I urge you to contact members of the school board and the superintendent (see below) in addition to attending Monday evening’s Board of Education meeting, which is at 7:45 pm in the Education Center, 434 Millburn Avenue, Millburn. We know from experience that the School Board is responsive to these methods of communication. Make your voice heard.
One serious note of caution: I have read and spoken to several members of our community who have suggested that this move is inherently anti-Semitic and have invoked other persecutions in our history. This is not the issue and this rhetoric only serves to polarize our community, label us a “one issue” religious community and is counterproductive to the outcome we wish to work towards as a community.
With best wishes
Steven Bayar, Rabbi