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Students Adjust as Rosh Hashanah Overlaps with Shopping Week

By David Song, Crimson Staff Writer

As members of the Harvard community prepare to celebrate the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah—which begins at sunset Wednesday and restricts all work, including writing—students and professors are working to accommodate those observing the holiday.

Those observing Rosh Hashanah cannot work from sunset on Wednesday to sundown on Thursday or Friday, depending on denomination, which could lead to conflict during classes or events such as the Activities Fair.

Several Jewish professors will not be offering classes during the period of Rosh Hashanah, while many students will miss classes to attend services.

“It’s very unfortunate, but there is not anything else [the University] can do,” said Jon L. Ascherman ’16, Vice President for Community Relations and Social Justice at Hillel. “But I think the College is really accommodating right now.”

Many professors still holding classes, for example, plan to utilize office hours and offer notes for students who cannot attend class during the holiday. Students observing the holiday will not be penalized for work missed during shopping week, wrote Faculty of Arts and Sciences spokesperson Colin Manning in an email statement to The Crimson.

David F. Sackstein ’14, president of the Hillel Undergraduate Steering Committee, said that most of the outreach to support students observing the holiday has involved emailing deans and House masters and communicating with student organization leaders. Hillel has made various efforts to support the Jewish community during the week, he added, and has been especially attentive to incoming Jewish students who may not know what resources are available to them. To help students take part in the Activities Fair, Hillel created paper slips on which observing students can write their names before the holidays begin. Students will submit these slips to organizations instead of signing a list.

Some Jewish students noted the difficulties of dealing with the holiday in the middle of shopping week. “Harvard did make scheduling a frustration that could have been avoided with the Activties Fair,” Talia Weisberg ’17 said. “It could have been scheduled any other time, but it’s on Rosh Hashanah.”

Sackstein acknowledged that the timing creates a “difficult situation,” but was optimistic about the services in place for the community. “There are ways to make the best of it,” he said.

—Staff writer David Song can be reached at

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

CORRECTION: September 16, 2013

An earlier version of this article misquoted Jon L. Ascherman ’16 as saying he thought it was “very unfortunate that there is not anything else” Harvard could do about the conflict between shopping week and the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah. In fact, Ascherman said he believed it was “very unfortunate, but there is not anything else” Harvard could do about the conflict.

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