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PA Accommodates Students Celebrating Ramadan, Rosh Hashanah, and Yom Kippur

Jewish and Muslim members of the Andover community will balance school work with religious obligations and festivities during the coming weeks. Jewish observance of Rosh Hashana, which translates to “head of the year” and commemorates the new lunar calendar of year 5769, will commence Monday evening and end on Wednesday at sundown. Kenny Gould ’09 said, “Jews go by a lunar calendar starting from the creation of the world. So, we are celebrating [the year] 5769 on Rosh Hashanah and not 2008 [of the Gregorian calendar.]” Students will have the opportunity to attend local congregations in order to observe the holiday, according to Rabbi Michael Swarttz, Chaplain of the Academy. Rabbi Swarttz said, “There has been great hospitality from nearby congregations [to members of the Andover community].” “The administration makes it easy to leave campus [for religious activities], but making up the school work is more difficult,” he said. Emma Goldstein ’09, President of the Jewish Student Union and In-Depth Editor of The Phillipian, said, “Many students, especially local boarders and day students, make their own Rosh Hashanah plans with family members. They choose not to miss school not because [Rosh Hashanah] is unimportant to them, but it’s just hard at Phillips to keep up with work.” “For example, I will only be missing classes for the first day, even though ideally I would be able to observe both days of Rosh Hashanah,” she said. Goldstein continued, “In my experience, teachers have been really supportive and given me time to make up work when I approach them with an excuse for a religious holiday. I think some students may be nervous about approaching their teachers.” Despite the difficulties of balancing religious observances with work at Andover, observers of Rosh Hashanah appreciate the time to get to know fellow observers. Gould said, “Celebrating [Rosh Hashanah] is as much religious as social. Back home, I was with my family and friends. I miss Club Shalom, the Jewish club I founded at home, but as a new student I’ll soon get to know more people. A lot of local families have invited me for dinner.” Phil Oasis ’09 said, “[Going to the temple] in a large group with everyone celebrating is a nice atmosphere, though the amount of people is not religiously significant.” “It’s like being in your own hometown,” said Aaron Sage ’09. Members of the Jewish Student Union will be serving apples and honey sticks in Uncommons next Monday as part of a Rosh Hashanah tradition. Honey signifies the beginning of a sweet new year, according to Swarttz. Yom Kippur, also known as the “days of awe,” is another Jewish High Holiday celebrated 10 days after Rosh Hashanah. “[The days of awe] are a period of introspection and soul searching,” said Rabbi Swarttz. Muslim students have been observing Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, which concludes next week. Uncommons provides after-sundown meals for students that are fasting for Yom Kippur and Ramadan. Meredith Rahman ’10 said, “[Fasting] is certainly difficult to do with sports, since you can’t have water or food during the day, but it’s also hard to do work, because you feel sick and you’re hungry.” “Last year, Commons gave free Ryley food for people fasting. This year, you can carry out food, but you have to find the right Commons worker and then carry out a huge plate. It’s a bit awkward, but I’ve done it a few couple times,” Rahman. “It may be hard, but it’s supposed to feel hard, since it’s a test of your faith,” added Rahman. Coordinating religious observances for Ramadan can be particularly difficult since these events are held at night, according to Rahman, who is a boarding student.