Observing the Jewish Holidays in Silicon Valley
The High Holidays are around the corner, and with these auspicious days of renewal and reflection come the necessary emails, phone calls, and forms submitted to our schools, advising them that our children will be absent.
As a member of one of maybe four or five Jewish families in schools with up to 1700 students, it felt intimidating to me to reach out to school administrators year after year. I had feelings of guilt over these absences even though missing school for a Jewish Holiday is an excused absence.
My children sometimes felt that it would be easier to go to school, than to have to miss class and make up work or tests during a future lunch period. I could have used a resource that provided a sense of community and a reminder that my family was not alone in wanting to celebrate and worship during the High Holidays in a way that was meaningful to us.
When I shared my experience with Rabbi Hugh Seid-Valencia, he mentioned the Yiddish phrase:
“Shver tsu zayn a yid”
In English: It’s Hard to be a Jew*
I think many of us can relate to this sentiment at one time or another.
That is why I am very excited to share a resource that the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) has been creating for years, but that I only learned about when I joined as staff – a letter to superintendents, principals, and heads of schools throughout Santa Clara County advising school officials of the Jewish holidays that will occur during the school year.
I am hopeful that by providing this resource and by telling you that this letter goes out across the County every year, you will feel less alone and more connected to the other families navigating this journey.
Feel free to share this letter with your networks, teachers, coaches, and other advisors who would not necessarily get this information through normal school channels. Together, our network of Jewish parents, supported by our Jewish institutions, including the JCRC, can make it a little easier to be a Jew by creating a strong support system for our kids and our community as a whole.
The core of our work here at the JCRC is to build bridges of understanding in our community, working towards a more just society, and a strong vibrant Jewish community. This letter is a small way in which we hope to educate and increase understanding across multicultural, faith and institutional relationships. If there are other ways that we can support you and offer resources, please do not hesitate to reach out.
Associate Director, JCRC
*This phrase is also the title of a 1920 Yiddish language comedy play by Sholom Aleichem about Jewish-Gentile relations in the Russian Empire.