A district-sponsored event had to be moved from its originally scheduled date that conflicted with a major Jewish holiday, but a school-specific event remained in the plans for the first night of Yom Kippur.
The Madison School District had scheduled a neighborhood meeting on a possible new school for the evening of Tuesday, Oct. 8. Yom Kippur, considered the holiest day in the Jewish calendar and including a fast in recognition of the day, begins tonight after sundown.
Jewish holidays traditionally begin at sundown and continue until sundown the following day, in recognition of days beginning and ending at sunset.
The district’s calendar also shows a pair of school events, an Elvehjem Elementary School PTO meeting and a La Follette High School activities night, scheduled for Tuesday night. There is also a note on the calendar that states, “Schools shall avoid scheduling exams, athletic events/contests and other special events, such as assemblies, field trips and back-to-school nights” for Tuesday night.
MMSD spokeswoman Rachel Strauch-Nelson said in an email the PTO was not meeting Tuesday evening, when its regular monthly meeting would have been scheduled, but the event had not been taken off the calendar. The LHS activities night remained scheduled for Tuesday night as part of the school’s Homecoming week celebrations.
LHS principal Devon LaRosa sent an email to parents Tuesday afternoon acknowledging the “oversight” in scheduling an event on the night of Yom Kippur.
“We take responsibility for that mistake and apologize for the impact it has on our Jewish students,” LaRosa wrote. “I will be reaching out to folks in our Jewish community to work together and ensure that our community is inclusive for all. I am committed to deepening my knowledge and understanding so that we can better honor our students and families.”
Strauch-Nelson said in an email the neighborhood meeting planned was a “scheduling error and is being rescheduled.” The Badger Rock Neighborhood Center, which was set to host the neighborhood meeting, posted on the event’s Facebook page that it was “accidentally scheduled for the evening on which Yom Kippur begins.”
“It is cancelled for Oct. 8th and will be rescheduled for a later date,” the center wrote. “We apologize to the Jewish community for the scheduling error.”
The city of Madison Education Committee’s regular meeting would have been scheduled on Wednesday, Oct. 9, before sundown, so the committee chose to move it, chair Ananda Mirilli told the School Board in September.
Angela Jenkins, a parent in the district who is not Jewish, had responded that she was “interested” in the community meeting Facebook event without realizing what date it fell on. When she heard from a friend it was Yom Kippur, she said her immediate thought was, “Really? No way.”
Once it was confirmed, Jenkins shared a Facebook post and tagged School Board member Nicki Vander Meulen asking for more information. Jenkins said she saw it as a chance to “bring awareness” to holidays that aren’t often part of the mainstream conversation.
“My sharing and highlighting that is really a way to have a conversation with the community and the leaders, that so often we let things slide, but this is one that I think it’s worth highlighting,” Jenkins said. “Be more cognizant of this and put a little more thought process into when and where we are scheduling these meetings.”
She said the district does a good job in general of avoiding these types of conflicts and she hopes the district can continue “empowering and encouraging members of our community who celebrate different religious and cultural backgrounds to speak up.”