Sharon Schools To Stop Giving Students Good Friday and Jewish High Holy Days Off

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Good Friday will no longer be a day off for students in Sharon, Massachusetts, starting next school year. Nor will two Jewish holy days.

The school district scrapped Good Friday, Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah (two days), and the Wednesday before Thanksgiving from the list of days off it provides students. (Rosh Hashanah fell on a weekend this school year, but has traditionally been observed by the school district when it falls during the school week.) 

Instead, Sharon public schools will have a half-day on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and full days of school on the three religious holidays.

As a result, the school year will also start later. Instead of beginning on the Wednesday before Labor Day as it had before, it will begin on the Thursday after Labor Day. So while the school year started on Wednesday, August 30, 2023, this school year, the next school year will start on Thursday, September 5, 2024. 

With the change, the school district will no longer observe any Jewish holidays.

During the March 6, 2024, meeting of the Sharon School Committee, the committee approved changes to the school year calendar proposed by chairman Avi Shemtov.

The committee voted 5-2 to make that happen.

Veronica Wiseman, Julie Rowe, Wen Tiano, Shanna Belenky, and Avi Shemtov voted in favor of the change.

Adam Shain and Prisnel Dominque voted against it. 

Shain said that Sharon has an observant Jewish community and that he received feedback expressing concern about removing Jewish holidays.

“Within Sharon, we do have a fairly observant community and that’s true both on the Reform side where many reform synagogues don’t hold services, but Sharon’s does,” Shain said about the second day of Rosh Hashanah during the January 31, 2024 school committee meeting. “It’s one of the few that does. The Conservative synagogue I spoke to, and they have good numbers because they track attendance and they see only a small decrease in attendance between the first and second day.”

“I support adding days and trading days where possible, but I support maintaining both days of Rosh Hashanah,” Shain later added, referring to the possibility of adding new holidays to the school calendar in future years.

Wiseman discounted the need to have school off for certain religious holidays, particularly Good Friday. 

“So rather than calling things out on what we understand to be important dates for folks, I think that we know that there are lots of members of our community of different cultural backgrounds and religious groups that are observant,” Wiseman said during the January 31, 2024 school committee meeting. “But I wonder if a good question for the community would is, ‘If we held school on those days, would you go? Would you send your child to school? Would you work?’ 

“That’s a subtle difference in whether you observe a thing or whether you would send your child to school on that day if school were held.

“If you are an observant person for Good Friday, is that something that could happen after school, and your child could go to school on that day because your observance is later in the day? It’s not really so much about ‘do you observe it?’ As it is ‘would having school on that day impact you?’ ”

Good Friday is a Christian holy day that marks the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It is one of the holiest days of the year for Christians, who belong to the most common religion in the country. Many Christians attend church services that day, which usually take place at noon, at 3 p.m., or during the evening. Additionally, some Christians also attempt to maintain silence between the hours of noon and 3 p.m., the time Jesus hung on the cross.

The calendar change in Sharon next year means that the district will offer no day off associated with Easter, the holiest day of the Christian calendar.

Additionally, there will be no days off associated with the two holiest days in Judaism.

Yom Kippur is the Jewish Day of Atonement, observed through fasting, prayer, and repentance, marking the culmination of the High Holy Days. 

Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year, celebrated with prayers, festive meals, and the sounding of the shofar, symbolizing reflection, repentance, and the beginning of the High Holy Days.

About 63 percent of Americans are Christian, while Jews make up about 2 percent of the population. Sharon has a sizeable Jewish minority population. Exact figures are unknown, but the community has seven synagogues, including three Orthodox congregations.

Americans who don’t identify with Christian faiths also observe many of its cultural practices; 81 percent of Americans celebrate Easter. 

Sharon Public Schools serves 3,436 students from pre-kindergarten through Grade 12, according to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Sharon is a town in central Norfolk County with a population of about 18,500 people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The calendar changes were first reported by The Sharon Talon, the student newspaper at Sharon High School, on Thursday, March 7.


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