ASU Fails Faithful Jews

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.

Any thoughts?



*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.



Filed under Judaism, Religion and the Public Sphere

5 responses to “ASU Fails Faithful Jews

  1. Aaron

    Ken, you surprise me. You’re a different kind of Lutheran than I thought you were . . .

  2. recreative

    And just what does that mean? 🙂 That ambiguous comment could be taken a lot of ways. Oh, and for clarification, which Aaron am I talking to? Singleton? Mutal?

  3. Aharon Micha'el ben Micha'el Mordechai Mutal

    Thank you for your post, Ken ben ? Chitwood. I am not surprised by your post–you have a big heart and you’re very knowledgeable.

    To be honest, I am sad at the above results, but I am not at all shocked. I assume, and pray, that going forward the ASU leadership will make sure that the observant Jewish community will not be stuck between their fear in G-d and their fear in fellow man (who may not even be intentionally trying to force hardship on the Jewish people, like doing so without malicious intent). I know how it feels right now with Shavuot coming and feeling the pressure to keep working.

    Ironic that this pilgrimage holiday called Chag Ha Shavuot, which is part of the “Shalosh Regalim” alongside Chag Ha Maztot (Pesach) and Chag Ha Sukkot, is about the 10 “Commandments”, or “utterances” or “things” (Aseret Ha Dibrot). One of the 10 mitzvot is the observance of Shabbat as an eternal statute between HaShem and Amo Yisra’el. These commandments were given during Shavuot, and according to the Oral Torah the Jewish people did not know or understand exactly how to prepare meat correctly in order to avoid sin, so they thus abstained from the wholesale slaughter of even the animals that could in theory be kasher in order to observe the Torah. The holiday, which commemorates the giving of the Torah in general and in particular the 10 mitzvoth, is thus traditionally observed by consuming non meat products, including but not limited to dairy products.

    I say this whole thing is ironic because society tends to view the 10 Commandments positively, or at least with mild favorability, including academic institutions. Yet the holiday which is about the big 10, Shavuot, has this key ingredient of dairy consumption, which is a small piece of the puzzle that could inform one into the rest of the laws of Kashrut. The holiday is also about much more than just cheesecake: it is about honoring your parents and not stealing and not chasing after false g-ds, like idolizing materialism, AND it is also about honoring and caring about the day of rest, the Sabbath. The laws of kashrut and the Sabbath both come from Shavuot and are inherently tied to the 10 Mitzvoth.

    It is Ironic, then, that generic society is so quick to associate itself with “THE 10 COMMANDMENTS” and then be unwilling to accommodate the needs of those people who truly do associate with the big 10. Perhaps ASU is not yet generic society or perhaps generic society truly does not live up to its claim.

    Thank you again Ken.

    What a brilliant read.

    Chag Shavuot Sameach!


  4. recreative

    Thanks Aaron for the comment and the discussion earlier today. You keep me sharp and you keep me learning. Thank you.

    Here’s to a good weekend where we can chat more.

    I invite you to come by the site more often, I would love to hear more of your thoughts.



  5. Pingback: Uber-empfindlichkeit und Oberammergau « Ubuntu Blog – umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu

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