Letters to the Editor / Opinion

The UC Schedule Changes: It’s About Time

I remember visiting the doctor’s office during the holiday season. As I walked through the office, I noticed that it was decorated with twinkling Christmas lights, a fabulous tree and crafted figurines of the Nativity scene. As I glanced around the room, I spotted a menorah on the desk of the secretary. I pointed out the menorah to my mom, excited that my Jewish religion was actually being acknowledged in some way. When I was younger, I was satisfied that Hanukkah was even recognized at all. But as I grew up, I realized that being acknowledged in passing is not enough.

Growing up in a predominantly Christian society, I realized that practicing Judaism was something I wanted to emphasize in my life. I felt as though it was even more important for me to observe Jewish holidays and customs since Judaism is not the chief religion of my country.

I never realized how little opportunity the Jewish student community has in observing its important high holidays, though, until I came to UCSB. Yom Kippur, a holiday of atonement and the holiest day of the year for the Jewish people, falls during the first week of school. Nonetheless, I find it necessary to observe this holiday with my family. Skipping the first few days of school, although a personal decision, has always been a choice that I have made with disdain. This decision, although necessary for my personal beliefs, robs me of the equal chance to exceed in certain classes because by Week Two, I’ll have already missed key announcements, lectures and readings. Thus, I have been forced to choose between my religion and my studies on quite a few occasions. This is why I am extremely grateful to the UC system for deciding to push back the first week of school. Speaking to other Jewish students at UCSB, I can confidently say that as a community, most of us are appreciative for the change in schedule. We wish it had come sooner, but we are enormously thankful that it came at all.

I thought that my peers would admire this change, and that they would be excited to get a somewhat extended summer, even if it meant a shorter Winter Break. So I was absolutely shocked to read and hear some of the negative criticism that my peers expressed regarding the schedule change. I expected the negative sentiments towards the shortened winter break, but I did not expect the anti-Semitism that came along with some of these concerns.

Facebook was a place where many of these disrespectful sentiments were publicly advertised. Students and non-students alike expressed outraged that the Jewish community was receiving “special treatment” and claimed that Jews were already an overly privileged group, dominating “half of Wall Street, not to mention the media, government, [and] the Nobel Prizes.”

I am privileged. But, I speak for myself when I say that I am privileged. I am privileged to have a generous, supportive family. I am privileged to be studying at a world-class university. I am privileged to be a part of a religion that speaks to my soul. And I acknowledge these privileges.

But I also acknowledge that Jewish people as a whole are not privileged. Jews have been historically oppressed and frankly, in this country, historically ignored. I’m not talking in terms of business or media, but rather culturally and religiously. There is an undeniable lack of consideration of the Jewish community when it comes to organizing the scholastic schedule. Winter Break is always centered on Christmas, while Hanukkah is ultimately expendable if it falls outside of the Christmas/New Year area. Also, Passover almost always falls during the school year. Now, finally, the two most important Jewish holidays — Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur — are being recognized. This recognition ultimately shows respect to the Jewish community, which is graciously and gratefully welcomed.

The general reactions to the schedule change have made the lack of respect for Jews clear on campus. One student expressed disdain for the new schedule by writing a letter to Janet Napolitano and sharing it with the Facebook community. In the letter, Judaism is not explicitly mocked; instead, the author employs a highly passive-aggressive demeanor towards it throughout the entire piece. The author suggests that because one religion’s holiday is being considered when planning the schedule, so should the holidays of other religions. I agree with this one hundred percent. The author goes on to list religious holidays that he believes the UC system should, therefore, accommodate as well. At first, the suggestions are relevant and valid — he names Ramadan and Easter — but as the list goes on, the author names holidays such as “Robert E. Lee’s Birthday … a state holiday in Alabama and two other states”. By comparing the holiest day of the Jewish year with a holiday that the author clearly intends to be seen as comical, the post devalues and ridicules the Jewish community as a whole.

To read that students feel the Jewish community has been “catered to” upsets and angers me. Being acknowledged by the UC system for the first significant time in several years, the Jewish community is not being “catered to” in any way. “Catered to” suggests a privilege that ignores the masses, when the schedule changes provide quite the opposite. The Jewish minority feels that this consideration of our holidays has been long overdue. Some arguments to this schedule change are relevant and backed with reasonable and valuable support, but I am personally offended when students and non-students alike choose to “blame” the schedule change on Jews when, in reality, it’s about time that the Jewish community was recognized.

Arezu Hashemi is a second-year history major.

This is a Daily Nexus online exclusive.
Views expressed on the Opinion page do not necessarily reflect those of the Daily Nexus or UCSB. Opinions are primarily submitted by students.
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3 Comments

  1. Emily Montan says:

    I have been struggling with UC system-wide management on this issue as it relates to the so-called Winter Holiday party. It became glaringly apparent after I wrote several emails well in advance of the winter celebration time. These emails told party planners that Hanukkah is early and that it would be over by the end of November. I explained that adding it to the Winter Holiday celebration would be like celebrating Christmas in January. I have also explained that most of the decorations were from Pagan traditions rolled up into current Christmas celebrations; not Jewish celebrations. This is an example of assimilation and it is wrong for ANY tradition. BTW Christmas = Christ’s Mass.

    Though many Jewish people in this country are doing well, respect and dignity should not have a price attached to it.

  2. I can see your viewpoint. However, this is more than just religious observation and respect. The UC system is funding by California and the Federal Government. Therefore, there is a clear line of separation of Church and State. If the Jewish Holy Days are observed, why is it that Ash Wednesday and the whole Forty Days of suffering that Jesus went though not observed. Its obviously important to the Christian population. Why don’t the law protect this? Its not about Jews or Christians or Muslims, its about the student population and diversity. When you decide to skip classes to observe the Holy Days, that is totally your decision. The school does not tell you to skip class for it. The Bible and Torah tells you to observe it; however, I think that you need to accommodate your lifestyle around school. I value my belief and faith in Jesus too, but you need to understand that education is important and you could pray during breaks in between classes, no need to skip. God bless you.

  3. I was the one who said in a comment that Jews dominate “half of Wall Street, not to mention the media, government, [and] the Nobel Prizes.” You skew that comment to make it seem like I was insinuating a Jewish conspiracy. In fact, I’m ethnically Jewish myself, and all those things are verifiable fact. Jews really do dominate in all of those fields. (We’re fucking smart; see this Steven Pinker lecture on the topic: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1GexZF5VIMU) However, that comment you quoted had nothing to do with the holiday issue (although I certainly think that a religious minority getting to ruin the school calendar for everyone else based on a Bronze Age myth is bullshit). I was responding to someone who said “Christian privilege,” and pointing those things out to say that I as a Jew do not feel underprivileged in our society; in fact, I feel privileged in many ways. My grandma grew up seeing “No Jews And Dogs Allowed” signs, at a time when the University of Chicago had a cap on the number of Jewish students they’d admit (but she was so smart they let her in anyway). Some of my ancestors were killed in pogroms. That’s real anti-Semitism. Not having the entire school schedule sculpted around your holiday is not. But I do applaud you for having the courage to express an unpopular view.

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