Passing Over Passover


Auden Yurman, Staff Writer

Holidays are a big part of life for many people, and some students look forward all year to holidays such as Christmas and Easter. For students who don’t celebrate Christian holidays, the holidays they don’t celebrate can be just as important as the holidays they do. For freshman Ethan Palmer, who is Jewish, being part of a minority religion makes his school experience different than his Christian peers. “Being Jewish affects my school life a bit…I feel a bit removed during Christian holidays. It’s a weird feeling because the world around me isn’t terribly different on Jewish holidays, but during Christian holidays, we miss school, the stores are closed, and all my friends are busy,” said Palmer. Freshman David Gluckman, who is also Jewish, has had a similar experience. “This year, I had to not only miss school for both Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah, but I also missed a track meet due to the first night of Passover,” Gluckman said. “Aside from missing school and school related activities, there have been many times in my school years, especially this year due to the teaching of World History, where the conversation has turned to various parts of Christianity and I am left confused.”

The impact of not celebrating the same holidays as the majority of the school reaches beyond making Jewish and other minority religion students feel left out. According to Palmer, the majority Christian population changes the way he thinks about his own religion. “For me, Jewish holidays are not a very big deal, and I attribute that, at least in part, to my school and the world around me being indifferent towards them,” he said. Gluckman noted the “Christmas spirit” affected him around the holidays. “Although it is fine being Jewish throughout most of the year, I find it aggravating to be Jewish during the month leading up Christmas and a few days after even,” Gluckman said. “I find that the Christmas spirit doesn’t make me happy as it should be rather it just makes me feel different and secluded from everyone who does celebrate the holiday.”

The separation between Christian and non-Christian students around major Christian holidays is also noticeable to students who are not part of minority religions. Freshman Carene Olsson, who is Catholic, has a few friends who celebrate Passover. “I think I know quite a lot about Passover, because of what I’ve learned from my Jewish friends, and from the Old Testament of the Bible.  For example, I know [they] don’t eat leavened bread,” said Olsson. She also thinks that Christian holidays could be strange or uncomfortable for students who don’t celebrate them. “I think that major Christian holidays, Easter and Christmas, have become extremely commercialized…  At least from my experience, there are much fewer students who don’t celebrate Christian holidays, and that may lead to awkward situations,” she said. “An example would be calling winter break ‘Christmas break’, and upon returning a commonly asked question, by teachers and students, is “What did you get for Christmas?”  I think it could be very uncomfortable for students who don’t celebrate these commercialized, yet Christian holidays.”

Olsson wasn’t the only student who noticed how Christmas affects school life. “During school, I find that a lot of teachers have something symbolizing Christmas whether that be a count for how many days there were until Christmas or a small Christmas tree in the corner,” said Gluckman. He went on to mention specific instances he felt left out at school because of his religion. “I had one particular experience this year one of my teachers erased a counter that I had written on the board for how many days until Hanukkah but kept a counter of how many days until Christmas. In general, that parts of our school life are formed around Christianity. These range from how the school calendar is arranged to accommodate when Christmas and Easter occur to what teachers do when Christmas time rolls around.”

One of the most important parts of the United States is freedom of religion. State High isn’t the most diverse high school, with a large majority of white Christian students, but the other religions are there. It’s important to consider the beliefs of all students, including the minorities, and make sure the holidays of all religions are appreciated, represented, and not ignored. Every student should know that their culture matters.