I was personally offended by the Nov. 9 story about schools remaining open on Yom Kippur, the highest holy day in Judaism. Frederick has a rich history of a vibrant Jewish population and we have been part of this community since its founding (see “The Jews Beneath the Clustered Spires: Historic Frederick and the Jews Who Lived and Worked There” [Paul Gordon, Rita Gordon]), a former mayor and his wife. Frederick currently has three active Jewish congregations: the Chabad off East Ninth Street (an Orthodox congregation), Beth Shalom on North Market Street (a Conservative congregation across from the YMCA), and Kol Ami (a Reform congregation that meets at the Unitarian Universalist facilities). While each of these congregations observes this high holy day in a somewhat different manner, it is still our day of fasting, atonement and reflection.
While I don’t know the size of Frederick’s Jewish population, I can say with confidence that many of the services I have attended have almost 100 people in attendance. And, just like any other religions, many don’t attend services or affiliate themselves with a particular congregation. What I do know is that almost every other person I’ve met of the Jewish faith observes this high holy day. Yom Kippur translates to “Day of Atonement.” It’s our day to atone for our sins as the new year starts (Rosh Hashana means “head of the year” or new year). I can’t imagine anyone on the school board deciding to keep schools open on Christmas or Easter.
I think eliminating Fair Day would make more sense. Students can attend the fair on weekends or, if they have animals at the fair, take an excused absence. But to penalize students and teachers for practicing their religion is, in my opinion, unforgivable.