Editor’s note: The following letter was sent to the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools and to The Herald-Sun and The News & Observer.
Dear Dr. Baldwin and CHCCS Board,
We are religious leaders for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro community. We are writing to urge you to modify district practices relating to the Jewish High Holy Days, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Several years ago, after much work and many conversations, the board committed to the principle that children (and teachers and staff) should not have to choose between observing their religion and attending school. Now, the district has scheduled an inclement weather make-up day on Sept. 19. This year, that day is Yom Kippur – one of the most sacred days of the Jewish year.
An unintended consequence of this make-up day is that, once again, Jewish students, teachers and staff and their families must choose.
It is hard to imagine that the district would ever require Christian students to make such a decision regarding the holiest days of the Christian tradition. The situation is made worse by the fact that it is unnecessary. The district calendar has four waiver days already scheduled, and other options available for inclement weather days.
While the legislature has decided that school cannot start before Aug. 25 or continue beyond June 10, there is no mandate to use Yom Kippur as a make-up day. As a community and as a school district, we have the power to decide that we will respect our diverse student population. We can commit to standards of equity that honor not only those in the religious majority, but also those who are too often overlooked.
As part of that commitment, we ask for more thoughtful and sensitive practices related to school scheduling on the Jewish High Holy Days, and request that you move the inclement weather day currently scheduled for the 19th. Thank you for your consideration.
The Rev. Cameron Barr, senior pastor, United Church of Chapel Hill
The Rev. Justin Coleman, University United Methodist Church
Dr. Rodney Coleman, senior pastor, First Baptist Church of Chapel Hill
Rabbi Jen Feldman, Kehillah Synagogue
Rabbi John Franken, (interim), Judea Reform Congregation
The Reverend Clarke French, Church of the Holy Family (Episcopal)
Rabbi Daniel Greyber, Beth El Synagogue
The Rev. Margaret LaMotte Torrence, interim pastor, University Presbyterian Church
The Rev. Dr. Marcus McFaul, senior minister, Binkley Baptist Church
The Rev. Elizabeth Marie Melchionna, The Chapel of the Cross (Episcopal)
Pastor Will Rose, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church
Rabbi Melissa B. Simon, senior Jewish educator and rabbi, UNC–Chapel Hill North Carolina HIllel
Mitchell Simpson, pastor, University Baptist Church, Chapel Hill
The Rev. Susan Steinberg, associate pastor, United Church of Chapel Hill