Schools Will Observe Jewish, Muslim Holidays

Addressing the growing religious diversity in the City’s public schools, administrators and School Committee members approved a school calendar for the upcoming year that observes Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious holidays for the first time in the City’s history.

While the Christian Good Friday holiday has always been a day when schools were closed, Superintendent Paul Dakin said it had become clear recently that the schools need to address other religions as well – as much for logistical purposes as for equity.

The schools will now be closed on four religious holidays starting this year.

“We’re treating all religions equally on their holy days,” said Dakin. “It was a move to treat them equal by giving everyone the day off, such as we’ve always done with Good Friday. It does break up some continuity in September, but our kids and teachers are as much in other religions now as they are in Protestantism or Catholicism. It had to be we went to school on all religious days – meaning we would not go on Good Friday – or we give other religions a day off. We discussed it a lot and decided to add the days.”

In addition to Good Friday (April 18, 2014), the Revere Schools will also observe two days for the Jewish Rosh Hashanah (Sept. 5th and 6th) and one day for the Muslim Eid al-Adha (Oct. 15th).

Dakin said there were not enough students from other religions – such as Buddhism – to warrant entire school closures. However, those students would be accommodated individually, he said.

The move came as demographics have switched dramatically in the city, with the Muslim population growing at far greater rate right now than any other demographic group. With so many Muslim students and parents involved in the public schools, last year there were major problems on the one Muslim holy day.

“The Muslim faith now is deep in the community and there are lots of kids that cannot attend school on their holy days,” Dakin said. “There were a few hundred kids that would miss on a Muslim holy day at the high school and that was a logistical problem. On the flip side, we don’t have a lot of Jewish students, but we have a lot of Jewish teachers. On their holy days, we would have about 50 teachers out. That also proved difficult.”

Cambridge Public Schools were one of the first districts in the state to recognize all religious holidays last year, and it is presumed that many other districts – like Revere – will follow suit.

In the Muslim community, religious leaders said they were grateful to be recognized by the schools and to allow their children to have the day to spend with family.

“There are thousands of Muslims in Revere now,” said Mohamed Lamaallem, executive director of the Al Huda Society in Chelsea – which is heavily attended by Revere residents. “Muslims are a part of American society now…We certain thank them for giving our kids the day off so they can celebrate with family. We don’t have a lot of major holidays – just two of them – but people are required to take the day off. At some time, we hope that it would be something that is approved by the state Department of Education and not just the individual school districts.”

Lamaallem said the October holiday is actually the Holiday of Sacrifice, and it marks Abraham’s obedience to God. After a time of prayer, Muslims travel to farms in rural Massachusetts in order to slaughter a lamb. Many farmers in the state have become accustomed to accommodating the religious observation.

The only other major holiday, Lamaallem said, is the observance of the last day of Ramadan – which is this Thursday – and currently falls in the summer time when school is out.

Rabbi Joseph Berman of Temple B’nai Israel said he believes it’s an important milestone

“This is an important change that reflects the religious make-up of students and teachers in the Revere public schools,” he said. “We are blessed to live in such a religiously diverse city with Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, and non-religious neighbors.”

And it’s Rabbi Joseph Berman, Rabbi of Temple B’nai Israel.

Meanwhile, Father George Szal, of Immaculate Conception Church, said he welcomed the decision to allow students to practice their faiths at home.

“Because we don’t allow prayer or Bible reading in our public schools anymore, I certainly support including holidays in the school calendar for Christian, Jewish and Muslim students,” he said this week. “Our country, and indeed Western civilization itself, is based upon a Judeo-Christian ethic in which Islam itself largely shares. As George Washington said about religion in general in his farewell address, ‘Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.’ It is a wonderful thing that our School Department has decided to help the students and staff practice of their respective faith. Now, if only those concerned would actually see their holy days as an opportunity to celebrate their faith, and not simply as another day off, we might actually improve the security and morality of our civic life.”

Dakin said he hasn’t had any push back from the community at large, but he wouldn’t rule out some objection in the days to come.

“Some people may not like it, but it’s either we had some days off or no days off,” said Dakin. “You would expect to have opposition, but I haven’t yet had the ‘Why are you doing this for them?’ arguments. That’s surprising given the nature of things sometimes in this community, but maybe it’s also a sign that things have changed. My whole point is we have to be equal.”

School has begun the new session yesterday, Aug. 27th, though the McKinley School started prior to that.

1 comment for “Schools Will Observe Jewish, Muslim Holidays

  1. IftikharA
    August 29, 2013 at 4:39 pm

    A civilisation is measured not by the rights it grants its majority but the privileges it allows its minorities. Muslim families are as entitled as any other religious group to schools that nurture their children’s faith. Muslim pupils should be educated in Muslim schools because the current system is marginalising them. Teaching Muslim children in a Muslim school would remove the “problem of them being exposed” to values that conflict with Islamic faith. Muslim pupils are disadvantaged and marginalised in the city’s state schools because the cultural heritage of the curriculum is “European and Christian”. Muslim schools provide an education in accordance with the Muslim beliefs and values, such as providing single-sex schooling after puberty. They are thus a response to the danger of absorption into the dominant culture.

    The demand for state funded Muslim schools is in accordance with the law of the land. Muslims are not asking for any favour. I set up the first Muslim school in London in 1981 and now there are 188 Muslim schools and only 12 are state funded. I would like to see each and every Muslim child in a state funded Muslim schools and I hope one day my dream would come
    true. There is no place for a non-Muslim child or a teacher in a Muslim school. Bilingual Muslim children need bilingual Muslim teachers as role models during their developmental period. There are couple of schools for Hindu and Sikh communities. Now even Black community is thinking of setting up their own state funded schools for their own children with black teachers.

    You better teach your children in your own schools and let migrant communities teach their children according to their needs and demands.
    British Establishment and society should concentrate on the evils of their own society and stop trying to change the way of life of Muslims. Muslim community does not want to integrate with the British society, indulging in incivility, anti-social behaviour, drug and knife culture, binge drinking, teenage pregnancies and abortion.

    A Muslim is a citizen of this tiny global village. He/she does not want to become notoriously monolingual Brit. He/she is well versed in standard English, Arabic, Urdu and other community languages so that they do not
    find themselves cut off from their cultural heritage and are able to enjoy the
    beauty of their literature and poetry.

    Bilingual Muslims children have a right, as much as any other faith group, to be taught their culture, languages and faith alongside a mainstream curriculum. More faith schools will be opened under sweeping reforms of the education system in England. There is a dire need for the growth of state funded Muslim schools to meet the growing needs and demands of the Muslim parents and children. Now the time has come that parents and community should take over the running of their local schools. Parent-run schools will give the diversity, the choice and the competition that the wealthy have in the private sector. Parents can perform a
    better job than the Local Authority because parents have a genuine vested
    interest. The Local Authority simply cannot be trusted.

    The British Government is planning to make it easier to schools to “opt out” from the Local Authorities. Muslim children in state schools feel isolated and confused about who they are. This can cause dissatisfaction and lead them into criminality, and the lack of a true understanding of Islam can ultimately make them more susceptible to the teachings of fundamentalists like Christians during the middle ages and Jews in recent times in Palestine. Fundamentalism is nothing to do with Islam and Muslim; you are either a Muslim or a non-Muslim.

    There are hundreds of state primary and secondary schools where Muslim pupils are in majority. In my opinion all such schools may be opted out to become Muslim Academies. This mean the Muslim children will get a decent education. Muslim schools turned out balanced citizens, more tolerant of others and less likely to succumb to criminality or extremism. Muslim schools give young people confidence in who they are and an understanding of Islam’s teaching of tolerance and respect which prepares them for a positive and fulfilling role in society. Muslim schools are attractive to Muslim parents because they have better discipline and teaching Islamic values. Children like discipline, structure and boundaries. Bilingual Muslim children need Bilingual Muslim teachers as role models during their developmental periods, who understand their needs and demands.

    None of the British Muslims convicted following the riots in Bradford and Oldham in 2001 or any of those linked to the London bombings had been to Islamic schools. An American Think Tank studied the educational back ground of 300 Jihadists; none of them were educated in Pakistani Madrasas. They were all Western educated by non-Muslim teachers. Bilingual Muslim children need bilingual Muslim teachers as role models. A Cambridge University study found that single-sex classes could make a big difference for boys. They perform better in single-sex classes. The research is promising because male students in the study saw noticeable gains in
    the grades. The study confirms the Islamic notion that academic achievement is better in single-sex classes.
    London School of Islamics Trust

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