Jewish Students at Suny Win Demand to Have Classes Suspended on High Holy Days

The Jewish students of the State University of New York at Albany have achieved a major victory in their fight to be recognized as a potent force on campus. President Louis T. Benezet rescinded an earlier decision and directed the University to suspend classes on the Jewish High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Classes will be suspended on Sept. 30 at noon to give Jewish students time to get home before sundown. Similarly, classes will be suspended at noon on Oct. 9. It is believed to be the first time that a University calendar has been changed to recognize Jewish holidays. Student leaders of the Hillel Society and Am Yisroel had met with Mr. Benezet on Sept. 14 to relay to him the Jewish students’ displeasure at classes being scheduled for the High Holy Days. He was told that even though the state law says that a student cannot be penalized for missing a class for religious observance, the student is, in effect, being penalized by missing whatever was done in class that day. Student leaders also pointed out that the University was working on a double standard. The high Christian holidays are always included in vacation periods, and that denying the Jewish student his right to worship without fear of missing important classes was discriminatory. Mr. Benezet expressed his regrets that there was nothing he could do to close the school this year. Several days later, at Mr. Benezet’s weekly conference with students, 200 students challenged his decision. Directly after this meeting, the University Senate met and overwhelmingly approved a bill urging President Benezet to reconsider his earlier decision. The next morning, Steve Shaw, a student leader in the right to have classes cancelled for the Jewish High Holy Days, received a phone call from the president’s office, informing him that the President had changed his mind and that classes would be suspended for Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur.

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