Each year, when the school, business and community calendars are published, I get calls complaining about the conflicts between the Jewish holidays and scheduled events. No matter how we follow up on these matters, the individuals charged with responding inevitably say, "We are very sorry – if only we had known sooner."
It never helps, except for personal satisfaction, to reply that the Jewish holidays have been scheduled for 2,000 years. The fact is that most non-Jews (and plenty of Jews) don’t even think to check the roster of holidays before setting calendars.
Only by taking the long-range approach can we hope to engender greater sensitivity to Jewish needs. Now is the time to begin contacting school boards and individual school principals and PTA presidents, supervisors at work and calendar committees in organizations to remind them to be aware of Jewish concerns. To that end, you will find enclosed the calendar of Jewish holidays published each year by our Jewish Community Council. It is the calendar distributed last year, but it includes holidays for the years forward as well as brief explanations of the observances.
Please make as many copies as you need and forward them with a cover letter (suggested text follows)
to those responsible for decision-making. I suggest that you use a highlighter to draw attention to the dates for 1998 and forward. About a week after you mail the calendar, follow up with a personal phone call just to make sure it arrived and was seen. Mark your calendar to call again before summer.
All of this work is in vain if, after asking for consideration, you and your children ignore the holidays. Those who go to work, school or activities on Rosh HaShanah, Sukkot, the end of Pesach and Shavu’ot (and, yes, Shabbat) make it clear that the holidays are low enough a priority that if they are inconvenient they will be forgotten. All of our public schools, the federal government and most business protect your right to observe our traditions without penalty (though, obviously, not with exemption from required work).
A concentrated effort now will make life less conflicted in late 1998 and the year following.