Rosh Hashana is never early nor late, but falls every year on the first and second of Tishrei on the Hebrew calendar. Having said that, most of us in the United States are bound to the Gregorian calendar and the first day of Rosh Hashana 2021 will fall on September 7, the day after Labor Day.
The savvy reader, or at least the one tuned in to the academic calendar, will immediately see the challenge facing our students attending the public schools. School districts will want to start the year on Rosh Hashana.
So, this was one of our March projects. As school districts were looking to approve their 2021-2022 calendars, we were in touch with every superintendent’s office. We provided a three-year calendar of our holidays and explanations of observances. We alerted them to this year’s unique situation. Area rabbis helped. Concerned citizens attended board meetings. We had a strong communal effort. While I’d love to report a 100% success rate, I cannot. But I can report that we did have a few significant successes and every superintendent is now aware of the challenge.
We had another interesting Hebrew vs. Gregorian calendar situation come up recently. I was contacted by the City School District of Albany to see if the Federation building could be used as a polling site for the annual School Budget Vote on May 18. I turned them down because May 18 is the second day of Shavuot observed by Conservative and Orthodox Jews outside of Israel, and our office will be closed. (I will be in shul that day.) A week later, I received an unexpected, yet pleasant, call from the school district’s Director of Communications and Operations. The district board was very concerned that it had scheduled an election on our holiday.
While nearly impossible logistically, they actually were willing to try to move the election date. Instead, I offered to help them with promoting absentee balloting to those affected, which we are doing with the help of our Albany synagogues. For eligible Albany voters, please see absentee directions here.
Most American Jews will continue to be tied to the Gregorian calendar, and our Hebrew calendar will continue to be in conflict. And while we cannot offer a perfect blending, Jewish Federation will continue to do what we can to prevent conflicts.
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