Jonathan Crimmins

Jonathan Crimmins

Do you ever have a television or radio on in the background while you are doing work around the house and stop to ask yourself, “What did they just say?” I have to admit that I was not expecting much out of the Brunswick School Board meeting from last week. There can, at this time of year, be a lack of hard hitting, really important items coming out of these meetings. That made the discussion about whether to add holidays from “outside groups” all the more notable.

A group of parents have been in discussions with the school department to include the most important holidays of the Jewish faith on the school department calendar. The request was meant as a means to educate the school department about the dates and to advise school department staff if a potential conflict was to arise. It was not an attempt to add to an already lengthy schedule of time off for both students and staff.

This agenda item began a discussion that dominated the latter part of the meeting and made the school board, or more accurately, two members of the board look like they may have broken bread at some point with Leni Riefenstahl.

Now I have to admit that, when I was a youngster, much of what I have learned of the Jewish faith came out of a song I sang at the Jordan Acres Elementary School. The music teacher, Ms. Elser, dutifully taught us “The Dreidel Song,” and we all thought about spinning that little wooden toy. We all heard about Hanukkah and their eight days of gifts. For a child, that sounded really neat. That is where the learning of world religions stopped.

Whether someone is a Christian, is Jewish, an Animist, a Zoroastrian, or yes, even a Muslim, they deserve space on the calendar. Even Pastafarians have gained notice in several states. It should not matter if a religion is lightly followed, or seen as an outside group, or a made up group. Their holiest of days deserve some recognition. Even if your highest of holidays calls for the celebration of the Cannelloni, it should be taken seriously. In this context, Yom Kippur does not seem that far outside of the mainstream to be relegated to obscurity.

Of course, whether someone is, to paraphrase a member of the school board, “unusual” and Jewish or “mainstream” and Christian, we all know about Christmas. Not because we all celebrate it, but because the School Department celebrates it as well. Why else would there be a notation on their current calendar that says, “24 & 25-Christmas Eve & Day”? I doubt the school department wanted to give us a reminder that there were only a few days left to shop before an unnamed day where presents are exchanged because someone years ago was born under less than ideal birthing conditions but grew up to later give himself up for all of our future sins.

Why else would my children have just had more than two weeks off around Christmas and New Year’s? If we are not acknowledging religion in the school than change the calendar for next year to include instructional days on Christmas Day. Since we are not teaching religions in school it only seems prudent.

Just because something is not common to you does not mean it is, “unusual.” Putting something on the calendar as a teaching tool is the right way to handle this issue. We should accept that while we have a freedom to practice the religion of our choosing in this country, we do not have a freedom from religion.

The school department should not shy away from the naming of various religious days on a calendar. The school department should embrace these religious days as part of the makeup of their students. By embracing these days, they become less “unusual” and more acceptable to everyone, including some school board members.

That’s my two cents…

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Jonathan Crimmins lives in Brunswick.


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