Let’s end holiday homework loopholes

Like many Jewish people around the world, I celebrated Yom Kippur last week. I observed the most important holiday in the Jewish year by fasting and going to services throughout the day. When I broke my fast at sundown, the last thing I wanted to do was homework. But, because of the way that teachers assign homework around Jewish holidays, I had to sit down and get to work.

At WHS, teachers are not allowed to assign homework over breaks for religious holidays. Most teachers did follow this rule, not assigning homework the day before Yom Kippur and having it be due the day after. However, many teachers across subjects assigned multiple nights worth of homework the day before Yom Kippur on Tuesday, due the day after we got back on Friday, giving Jewish students only one night to do the work assigned over the holiday on top of the homework assigned that day on Thursday. 

Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement, the day where Jewish people reflect on what they have done wrong throughout the year and pray to be sealed by God into the Book of Life, in order to have a happy, healthy and safe new year. It begins with a service the night before, known as Kol Nidrei, which is widely considered to be the most important service of the year, and the next day, there are services that begin in the morning and end when there are three stars in the sky, when the fast is over. When a student is at synagogue confessing their sins and praying for forgiveness, the last thing they should be thinking about is their English project or biology homework. 

Jewish students of all grade levels suffered this year due to this loophole. One freshman had multiple nights worth of homework assigned in several classes. A senior had four assignments, including a project, assigned Tuesday and due Friday. A junior had two hours of homework due Friday, and they had to start doing it while they were fasting, as they had several extracurricular activities on Thursday afternoon. 

I am not simply complaining about the amount of homework that I get. I am a senior in multiple AP classes, I expect to get busy. I’m just saying that Jewish students should not have to choose between getting their homework done in a timely manner and observing the most important holiday of the Jewish year. Jewish students should not be put at a disadvantage simply because of their choice to observe their religion.

So what should we do? I am not advocating for prohibiting teachers from assigning any homework the week of Yom Kippur, however, I want teachers to think about Yom Kippur when formulating deadlines. So, if Yom Kippur starts on Tuesday night and ends on Wednesday night, and a teacher wants to assign homework due on Friday, they need to act as if students only have one night to do it, because many students can only work on it on Thursday. 

Thus, they should only be allowed to assign one night’s worth of homework. This will allow Jewish students to not feel guilty about fully observing religious traditions.