Letter: Repect all religions (or none at all) in schools

Posted 7/14/21

On Monday, July 5, I stood on the parade route of Bristol’s Oldest Fourth of July Celebration.

The parade was taking place on Monday as it does when July 4 lands on a Sunday — to …

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Letter: Repect all religions (or none at all) in schools


On Monday, July 5, I stood on the parade route of Bristol’s Oldest Fourth of July Celebration.

The parade was taking place on Monday as it does when July 4 lands on a Sunday — to respect the community of people who attend church on the preceding Sunday. 

It occurred to me that if an entire parade can be delayed for one day to respect the religious beliefs of some of our community, then the Bristol Warren Regional School Committee could consider changing opening day of school to respect the first day of Rosh Hashanah.

Otherwise our Jewish children and faculty will have to miss the first day of school.

Five out of the nine members voted against changing opening day by revisiting the discussion and making a change to this year’s school calendar. We have not asked them to permanently change the calendar. We have simply asked them to reconsider this 2021/22 school year. 

Because the school committee refuses to budge on this, they are asking the Jewish population of our small community to stand out because of their religion; hardly anyone ever misses the first day of school.

School Committee Secretary, Victor Cabral, at a June 29 subcommittee hearing, used the words, “slippery slope” as his reasoning for not allowing this to be reconsidered. It was also disheartening to hear the chair of the school committee, Marjorie McBride, use the excuse of “precedent” by citing the supposed “forty-four other holidays” she did her “research on” to dissuade any possibility of empathy.

I did a brief Google search using the words, September Holidays 2021 and came up with an exhaustive list of “holidays,” such as National Beard Day and National School Picture Day, along with Batman Day and Pepperoni Pizza Day. The only holidays I noticed with any importance were the Jewish holidays, unless you are a Roald Dahl fan, (I am – Sept. 13). 

What we ask of our children is to love their neighbors, to own up to their mistakes with honesty and open hearts when they realize they have made them. What we are seeing, however, by the example of a closed-minded school committee majority, is the exact opposite, a lack of consideration for their Jewish neighbors. 

Where is the clergy on this? Where is their voice when it comes to respecting all religions? I would have expected more from their voices to support their fellow Jewish colleagues in leading this charge to do what is right. Silence. Why?  

I have heard a few members of our community ask, How many Jewish people are we talking about? This is like me asking how many of my Christian friends attend church on Christmas Eve or abstain from meat on Good Friday (by the way, schools are closed on this holiday). 

Religious beliefs are personal and private. I do not expect a full report on what my non-Jewish friends do or don’t do for their holidays. I do expect critical thought and meaningful dialogue from the leaders who represent our schools and I am not hearing this. 

I am not sure what is worse, not admitting when you have made a mistake or not even realizing that you have made one in the first place.

It is my hope that our community will stand together like we do on parade day and make this right. We live in a town that claims to be the most patriotic town in America; we need to make sure as a community that our outside voices are matching our inside ones.

Alayne White 

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.