Today at our monthly CORA* meeting I sat next to the Rabbi Shmuel from ASU Chabad. He and I were discussing the Christian Church Calendar and the Hebrew Calendar before lunch was served. What I experienced during that meal and the subsequent meeting was a little bit of “consciousness raising” and I wanted to share it with my REcreative and Ubuntu followers.
As my vegetarian Four Seasons pizza was delivered to my spot the waiter asked Rabbi Shmuel what he ordered. He kindly responded saying he didn’t order anything and the woman inquired if she could get him anything and he said, “Not unless you can find me something kosher.”
She left. I wondered what was going on.
I asked the Rabbi if there was any place on campus that he could enjoy a kosher meal. He said that other than a granola bar or a cookie the answer was “no.”
Engrained at ASU is one of the most progressive places around serving veggie fair galore and practicing sustainability to the utmost including local produce, seat belt recycled seats and fair trade organic coffee etc. (not to mention cucumber infused water). This place is cutting edge and hippest of the hip.
Seemingly they think of everyone at Engrained.
And yet no kosher options.
Shluffing it off as a gross oversight that ASU would soon correct I chowed down on the pizza and kept up the conversation with others at the table.
During the course of the meeting Rabbi Shmuel raised his hand to ask a good question.
“Who do I need to talk to about the classes at ASU holding final exams on Saturdays?”
I know, doesn’t that stink. Finals on Saturday. Bugh.
Yet, Rabbi Shmuel wasn’t concerned about student social calendars. His next comment struck me.
“It seems the options for many Jewish students is either to forsake their studies or their religious expression. That is an extremely unfair choice to have to make.”
I couldn’t agree more.
You see, Saturday finals may be inconvenient to the majority of ASU students, but they are downright offensive to faithful Jewish students trying to observe Shabbat. This isn’t an issue of laziness (if you think it is, join the neo-Nazis in their ascertation of Shabbat life) this is an issue of right to religious expression.
I know that a big fuss (scratch that, HUGE fuss…with legal action etc., etc., etc.) would ensue if finals were scheduled on a Sunday, but why is there only one voice meekly seeking justice for Jews at ASU who are forced to either break their Shabbat mitzvoth or suffer the wrath of their professors?
And it isn’t like there are only two students on ASU’s campus faced with this catch-22 conundrum. There are approximately 4,000 Jewish students on campus, comprising some 6% of the population (that’s 13th in the nation among public schools). Although that may not seem massive, it is big enough to pay attention to, especially when you are defacing the “soul” of said religion’s sanctified life.
It takes on even more significance when you think about how many ASU faculty and staff members are opining for a greater understanding of diversity in Arizona in lieu of the recent bill passed concerning immigration law in the Grand Canyon State.
I hope that ASU officials, Jewish students and Jewish leaders on campus can figure these things out. Although I am not directly involved and I don’t believe, as a Christian, that Shabbat is essential, I do believe in freedom of religious expression and don’t want to see my Jewish friends persecuted for their faithful practice of Shabbat.
With that said, I know ASU will work this out – President Crow in particular values the religions on campus and wouldn’t want to see anyone offended or hurt.
*CORA stands for the Council of Religious Advisors and is an interfaith group at ASU that enables religious organizations to have official faculty associate status on campus and connect to campus life in a positive and legal format. It also provides opportunity for lively discussion.