photo of honey and honey wand to represent the high holidays Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah and asking for days off.
Photo by Lindsay Moe

For full-time jobs, holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas are paid days off. These holidays provide students with a break in the year to relax before going back to the usual grind of schoolwork and studying.

That said, Christmas has become so integrated into American society that it’s essentially become an American holiday. As it’s now the beginning of September, that’s a discussion for another day.

While September isn’t the time to talk about Christmas, it is the time to talk about the High Holidays. At this very moment, they’re upon us. As Jews, we will now have to deal with the inevitable awkward discussion with our non-Jewish superiors or teachers about missing work.

The High Holidays

Having gone to Jewish schools for most of my life, I was out of my comfort zone when it came to confronting non-Jewish college professors about missing class or turning in homework late due to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. I ended up skipping Yom Kippur services this past year in lieu of missing class.

Skipping one’s holidays isn’t a decision anyone should have to make, Jewish or otherwise.

Christmas Versus Yom Kippur

It’s fairly obvious why Yom Kippur isn’t as valued in American society as holidays like Christmas. There are significantly more people who celebrate Christmas in America than there are Jews. We are far from the majority in the US, and in the world as a whole. As a result, schools and work typically don’t schedule those days off.

With this letter, I don’t hope to change this. I do, however, hope to implore non-Jewish teachers and employers to think about the Jewish High Holidays as if they were Christmas, Thanksgiving or even Easter.

Instead of forcing your employees or students to make the uncomfortable decision between following Judaism’s most sacred traditions and work or school, perhaps have an open discussion with them about why they’re asking for that day off.

Just Three Days Off

We’re not asking for homework extensions because we’re lazy or tired.

We’re not asking for a day off of work because we want to sleep in or slack off.

We’re simply asking for the most holy three days off so that we may peacefully observe our holidays just as every Christian American does on Christmas.

It’s not so much to ask.