The 40 Year Old Bat Mitzvah

The September Dilemma

Posted in Uncategorized by Juliet on August 30, 2010

A lot of Jewish parents talk about the December Dilemma:  balancing out our kids’ desire for the celebratory gift-giving frenzy of Christmas with the fact that aren’t Christian and it’s not our holiday.

I have opinions on the December Dilemma, but right now, a different problem is on my mind:  what to do about September?

The Jewish calendar is packed with holidays but for the vast majority of Jews outside the Orthodox world (most of whose kids do not go to public school and whose kids don’t do a lot of secular extra-curricular activities), there are only three days  a year when our kids will potentially have to miss school.  These are Yom Kippur and the two days of Rosh Hashanah.  (Most Reform Jews only do one day of Rosh Hashanah.)

Depending on what days of the week these holidays fall, our kids might have to miss one, two, or three days of school. For instance, this year, Eva has to miss a Thursday and Friday for Rosh Hashanah, but Yom Kippur falls on a Saturday.

First off…


Even if YOU personally don’t care, I do, and my kids do, and it’s confusing to the outside world to see Joe Schwartzbaum in the office or Danny Weissblatt at school when I’ve just explained that these are the holiest days in our year.

Now for the dilemma…

I’ve  carefully explained to everyone in our lives that this is a holy time, and our kids aren’t missing school just for the heck of it.  Most of the time is occupied in prayer.  Adults fast on Yom Kippur.  Eva will be fasting in just a few short years, in fact.

So what about the quick meeting, the phone conference, the short document signing, the cheer rally, the student council speech?

Jane has her soccer team’s picture day on the morning of Yom Kippur.  Sure, I could probably arrange to quickly take her there, then get back to synagogue, but the whole thing — the photographer, the team, the cleats and jersey — is so outside of the Yom Kippur mindset that it’s just not appropriate.

One year, Eva had gymnastics on one of the afternoons of Rosh Hashanah.  I let her go because it was late in the day, we’d already spent the better part of the day in synagogue, she had energy to spare, and it seemed unfair to her to not let her go.  But another year, I kept her from dance class that fell on the same day because it was much earlier in the day and we would have had to cut our synagogue service attendance short to make it to the class.

Is this entire September Dilemma a work in progress?


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