The University will make "every effort" in the future to avoid scheduling freshman registration on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, Dean Rosovsky said last night.
Rosovsky said he will ask a standing University panel charged with overseeing religion at Harvard to study the prevention of such calendar conflicts. "There are experts," he added, "who can shift a few days" and eliminate the problem.
Two weeks ago Harvard held registration for first-year students on Yom Kippur, stirring criticism from members of the University's Jewish community, including Rabbi Ben-Zion Gold, director of Hillel.
In a sermon delivered at Yom Kippur eve services on September 14 Rabbi Gold objected strongly to the timing conflict. Before a Memorial Church audience that included Rosovsky, Rabbi Gold argued that the conflict separates Jewish freshmen from their classmates on an "emotion-laden" day and that it pressures Jews to conform to a non-Jewish norm and to ignore their religion.
Rabbi Gold also said he thinks the conflict reflects a general policy of Harvard that he described with the slogan, "To Jews as individuals, everything; to Jews as a people, nothing." This attitude, he added, has been "accepted and even defended by many Jews in the University."
While Rosovsky said he agrees with Rabbi Gold's specific criticism of the scheduling conflict, he stressed that he does not believe that it "justified the broader context" in which the rabbi placed it.
Too Late to Change
Rosovsky said he discovered this year's conflict about a month before registration, which he said was too late to alter the schedule. Instead, he said, he directed the freshman dean's office to send a letter to all new students telling them that those registering one day late because of Yom Kippur would not be harmed in any way.
Dean Whitlock said yesterday that in 1973 the University studied the feasibility of shifting registration to avoid this year's conflict. The inquiry, he said, showed that only moving registration to the preceeding Friday would have been possible.
This was rejected, he said, because it would have left new students without any activities for the subsequent three days.