Passover, the annual Jewish holiday that celebrates the Jewish people’s escape from Egypt to Israel, takes place from March 27 to April 4 this year. Many students, however, are being forced to observe the seven-day celebration while partaking in school work.
Spring break has often been close enough to the holiday that students can go home from school to celebrate with their families, but this year’s spring break, which was pushed to April 12-16 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, forces students to study through the holiday.
Despite this year’s extenuating circumstances, spring break should have always fallen on Passover to allow students to celebrate their history.
This year’s delayed spring break, although necessary to mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19 on campus, left many students not only without a break in the midst of midterms but also without the ability to celebrate an important Jewish holiday with their families. Many students have felt that without a mid-March spring break they are lacking relaxation after midterms, according to an article by The Oracle.
Jewish students are rarely allotted breaks by schools to celebrate their holidays, forcing them to work and study during holidays that may require certain eating habits that tire them or the inability to use technology, like fasting and refraining from work for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, and Yom Kippur, the annual day of atonement.
During Passover, Jewish participants must refrain from eating food with yeast, also known as leavened food, while some even take the week to travel and celebrate with family and friends around the world.
It’s unfair that students of more prevalent religions, like Christianity, are allotted time off during their large holidays like Christmas while Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and many other often overlooked religions and cultural traditions are forced to work during their time of celebration.
Of course, there are laws in place that allow students to justify an absence if they have a religious excuse, but that requires students to miss class, depriving them of information that the rest of the students in the class are receiving.
USF’s academic policies and practices allow students to use religion to exempt them from class, but instructors must be notified in the beginning of the term for this excuse to be justified, according to the USF system policy 10-045.
Although USF has a small number of Jewish students, only 1,100, compared to UF’s 6,500 Jewish students, according to Jewish student organization Hillel International, every relatively prominent culture should be granted breaks from school and work during their time of celebration that would not deprive them of valuable curriculum.
Since Passover is on different dates every year due to Judaism being based on the lunar calendar, USF and other universities with large numbers of Jewish students should set their spring breaks around the annual holiday. This would not be much of a change, considering the two weeks of the year are usually close to each other.
It would be far more convenient for USF and all other Florida university administrations to schedule annual spring breaks, which are usually nine days counting weekends, during the same week that Passover is observed.
By intersecting spring break with Passover, USF will be allowing students to celebrate one of the most important Jewish holidays without the concern they are missing out on school work or getting points off their grade for lack of participation in class. There would be no downsides to scheduling spring break around Passover, since it costs nothing to slightly alter future academic calendars.