Jersey to Stop Sabbath Work at State Schools

The practice of holding regular classes on Saturday, recently introduced in the State Normal Schools of New Jersey, will be discontinued. This decision was reached by the New Jersey State Board of Education, following protests filed by Rabbi Charles I. Hoffman and Rabbi Benjamin Plotkin of this city.

A comprehensive brief, reviewing the constitutionality of the practice was prepared for the rabbis by Louis E. Levinthal, an attorney of Philadelphia, at the request of the American Jewish Committee.

In his brief, Mr. Levinthal claimed that the maintenance of Saturday classes in the Normal Schools is in violation of the constitution and laws of New Jersey, inasmuch as it involved an impairment of the right of free exercise of religion of those persons who have established the seventh day of the week as their Sabbath.

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Quoting numerous decisions affecting communities in various parts of the country, Mr. Levinthal showed that “the courts of the various states of the Union have zealously and undeviatingly protected the school system of the states from religious influences of {SPAN}###{/SPAN} denominational nature.” Mr. Levinthal cited as examples that the wearing of religious garb by teachers in public schools has been forbidden, as has been the holding of religious services in the school-room.

“The rationale of these decisions,” he said, “is that the tender and pliable minds of young children should be free from religious persuasion exercised by public authorities. The function of the public school is to impart secular knowledge and not to coach the students in matters of religious concern.”

Viewing the problem from the point of view of the child, Mr. Levinthal, in his brief, showed that “the institution of Saturday classes works an undue hardship upon the child whose sabbath is the seventh day in that it requires him to apply to the school authorities for the privilege of obtaining a rooster change which will obviate the necessity of his attendance at school on Saturday.”

The decision of the New Jersey State Board of Education is considered of tremendous importance in view of the spreading practice on the part of school boards in other parts of the country, to conduct classes on the Sabbath.

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