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Stony Brook U. defends having classes on Jewish holidays

(JTA) — Stony Brook University defended the revision of its academic calendar, which will keep the New York school open on major Jewish holidays.

In a message to the campus community issued last week, the university said that "Stony Brook is a public institution with a very diverse student body and as such we have always believed that religious observance is and must always be a personal choice, not an institutional mandate. Stony Brook is first and foremost an educational institution that has to provide the maximum instruction time in the most efficient, effective and beneficial manner for all students."

Under the new calendar, Stony Brook faculty members will be informed of the holidays of major religions represented at the school, which is part of the State University of New York system, and be told that no tests or major assignments can be scheduled on those days. The students cannot be penalized for taking the days off. 

"This allows each of our students to exercise their religious choices but does not compel other students to miss classes," the statement said.

Prior to the new calendar, the university had canceled classes for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Twenty-two of the 29 four-year SUNY campuses do not cancel classes on the Jewish holidays, according to the statement.

Half of Stony Brook’s student body of 24,000 is Christian, with 8 percent Muslim, 5 percent Jewish and 5 percent Hindu.
 

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