A Frederick County Public Schools calendar decision has made it harder to keep Yom Kippur holy, members of local Jewish congregations said.

From sundown Tuesday until sundown Wednesday, Jews were supposed to be introspective, fasting and not participating in work or play. Wednesday was also Fair Day on the FCPS calendar, which implies that students have the day off to attend the county’s annual agricultural and carnival ritual, The Great Frederick Fair.

“[The Board of Education] can choose whatever day they want for Fair Day,” said Rabbi Dan Sikowitz, of Congregation Kol Ami, but aligning it with Yom Kippur made keeping the holy day harder, he said. “Not that I think it’s the end of the world.”

Several months ago, when the calendar was presented, the Wednesday off was not identified as the day selected for Fair Day, which has traditionally fallen on a Friday.

“I didn’t even look to see what day Fair Day was,” Sikowitz said. “It wasn’t transparent. When we looked at calendar a year ago, it just said off for this day.”

Only since school started did he realize Fair Day coincided with Yom Kippur, and it wasn’t an accident.

The Frederick County Board of Education wanted to minimize disruptions in the school calendar, said Board of Education President Brad Young in an interview.

He said that in September, with Labor Day, Fair Day and the Jewish holiday, students hardly ever are in school for a full five days. Instead of giving students days off both Friday for Fair Day and Wednesday for Yom Kippur, the school board decided to combine the two.

“It’s almost October before they have a full week of school,” Young said. “It’s hard for them to get into a groove.”

Rabbi Jordan Hersh, of Congregation Beth Sholom, expressed disappointment in the decision. Not attending services for the holiest day is like not attending Easter services for a Christian, he said. On top of that, the “essential practices” of the day are fasting and introspection, but those can be challenging to carry out when the fair is happening. “I think a lot of parents are conflicted,” he said.

The calendar committee that organizes the school system calendar every year has already begun to meet, Young said. He encouraged members of the public to reach out to that committee or the Board of Education with comments.

Sikowitz and Hersh also encouraged their members to share their concerns with the school board.

Sikowitz said he knew the board’s decision was made thoughtfully, not maliciously. “Nobody did anything for any bad reason at all,” he said.

He said Jewish parents would be up against the tug from youngsters and the draw of the fair’s festivities: more like gorging and hilarity than fasting and introspection. “That’s absolutely not what we’re supposed to be doing,” he said.

Jeremy Bauer-Wolf contributed to this story.

Follow Patti Borda Mullins on Twitter: @FNP_Patti.

(18) comments


Fairs are fun, traditions are good, the Rabbi doesn't seem all that upset, and people who want their kids in school more can homeschool. Go to the Fair, be part of the past and a present you might not encounter otherwise. So many fond childhood memories revolve around days at your desk in school *not* You only get one childhood except for the one you might glimpse through a child's eyes.


They had the day off, they could do what the wanted to do, what is wrong with that?


Friday has been fair day, for at least 40 years. It worked fine. Even if the kids don't go to the fair, at least by giving them a day off for it they may ask what it is, and hopefully understand Frederick's rich agricultural history a little better. (wishful thinking). As far as the holiday, devout Jews would probably keep the kids home on their holy days, anyhow. Go back to the three day weekend. If it is not broken, don't fix it.


They can or cannot choose to take their children out any day they want. Fair day is Fair day. Traditionally it's always been on a Friday, but i will side with the BOE on this one.


Az men git dem tayvl a hor, vil er di gantse bord


A Yiddish saying that translates as "if you give the devil a hair, he will want the whole beard."

So now I'm curious: Are you likening Jews to the devil? Is Yom Kippur the hair? If so, what would be the whole beard?


I am not Jewish, but I would loosely translate it; "Give them an inch and they will want a mile." Or in plain English, my way or the highway.


Yeah, time to drop Fair Day from the school calendar. The fair runs for more than a week. Anyone who wants to go has ample opportunity. We don't need to disrupt school for it.

Two other days that schools usually close are the Friday before and the Monday after Easter. Those should also be dropped from the school calendar.


On Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, each of us can feel proud when we hold to our beliefs by staying home, fasting and repenting. God arranges Fair day on Yom Kippur to offer us a clear choice between right and wrong. Which did you choose?


OT, armillary, but your comments don't come with an avatar next to your name. Not even the generic silhouette that is the default. How do you do that.

Also OT. I composed a limerick lauding you for solving the indentation problem. I have it here somewhere.


Hi p-r, I just got back.

Just create a .png icon with nothing in it, using one of the icon editor websites.

When limericks gained a demerit
decided to not grin and bear it
and stopped the causation
of line indentation
with br 'twixt left and right carrot.


The first line they are now indenting
Arm's lim'ricks appear so dementing
But arm'lary's no lout
His will is quite stout
Revenge I trust he is fomenting.

I found it! It would have been more timely a couple weeks ago. Also, I don't know if the pronoun is apt.


Would neither be a good answer?


What really bugs me about this is that schools are again closed on Oct 16 and 30 with a half day on Oct 15 as well. And by the way yesterday was a half day too. When do they EVER go to school?


Constructing the calendar is frustrating. October 16th and 30th are both days off as required by the teacher contract. October 16th is a day off for the state teacher convention and October 30th is the mandatory end of term day off. The teacher contract allows for up to seven 2 hour early dismissals as well (one required at each mid-term, the other three up can be placed anywhere in the calendar). The calendar committee tries to place them in the best location possible on the calendar. There is a lot of discussion that goes into it. Hope that helps a little.
Julie Marker, parent and co-chair of the calendar committee


Students were released two hours early on Friday for teacher work time. Any family who missed going Wed could go on Friday afternoon. I agree with Mr. Young. School gets off to a good start each year with students and staff excited. Then the days off begin and the momentum is lost. For maximum learning, there has to be consistency.


Who really cares? The Jewish holidays were not an issue for years and the fair has been held on the same week for a long time. There was not a significant enough of a Jewish population in Frederick County, so it was not even addressed in the first place. Really, how many Jewish children are tugging on their parents to go to the fair on a particular day, anyway? Moreover, how many households - regardless of religion or none at all - couldn't care less about the fair? It is a nice activity for many people, but I was never interested nor was my child. The fair is not a draw for every citizen, including children, in Frederick County.


Good point, Sue. I don't go to the fair, because I am not interested. I did go to my home county fair in upstate New York a few years ago and visited the farm animals, while they were showing the oxen. I was not a farm boy and always thought oxen were a separate species, which they are not. They can be male or female cows, preferably male as they are stronger. So, you can learn things at the fair. I even remember working at one of the booths, during fair week, as a young boy. I can tell you, they are all rigged, but fun.

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