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Orthodox Women Protest Penalizing Students Absent for Religious Reasons

The practice of some schools and colleges in the United States of penalizing students who absent themselves from classes for religious reasons was denounced today at the 38th annual national convention of the women’s division of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America.

The 600 delegates, representing 500,000 members of Sisterhoods of Orthodox Jewish congregations in the United States and Canada, criticized the practice in a resolution approved at the closing session of the convention. The resolution also protested the practice by some schools and colleges in scheduling examinations and other mandatory curricular activities on the Jewish Sabbath and other Holy Days.

The delegates called such practices “an infringement of religious liberty and freedom of conscience.” They urged Women’s Branch affiliates and the Jewish communities “to make their protestations known to the appropriate educational and governmental authorities” and to seek arrangements to end such situations.

In another resolution, the delegates noted with “regret” the recent decision of the United States Supreme Court upholding Sunday closing laws for Sabbath observers holding a day other than Sunday as their Sabbath. They said such laws “discriminate against such Sabbath observers, including Jewish merchants who keep their places of business closed on the Jewish Sabbath for religious reasons.” They added that such court decisions necessitated action on the state level “to obtain an exemption for such Sabbath observers, an exemption now found in the laws of 21 states.”

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