OAKLAND, CA – The University of California academic calendar underwent further modification Monday after UC officials announced the shortening of spring break for the 2014-2015 school year by one week. This abridgment, which applies to every UC on the quarter system, was made to accommodate the religious practices of Jewish students during the Jewish Low Holiday of Yom Avodah.
Yom Avodah, sometimes referred to as “Lack Sabbath”, is a holy day devoted to work. Explained Hillel at UCLA director, Rachel Cohen: “Yom Avodah is like Jewish labor day, except instead of honoring laborers by taking the day off, we honor them by doing what laborers do best: work. Yom Avodah was created to commemorate all the hard work that has been done by Jews throughout history and is still being done by Jews today, whether it’s healing the sick as a medical professional, educating youth as a school teacher, or enduring grueling physical labor and abuse as a prisoner of a Nazi concentration camp.”
The change to the academic calendar was made in response to complaints by Jewish families that the scheduling of spring break during Yom Avodah would pressure their students to rest during a time when their religion requires them to be toiling away. Rabbi Chaim Weinbaum, father of UCLA first year Ari Weinbaum, told the Enabler, “If my son is prevented from fulfilling his religious obligations – his duties as a good, practicing Hebrew – all the work that has been done to maintain his observance of the Halacha will have been put to waste. Twice-daily Shema recitations: in vain. Yom Kippur fasts: fruitless. His circumcision: flushed down the toilet. He might as well reattach his foreskin!” When asked how he felt on the issue, Ari Weinbaum confessed, “I really don’t want to have to sew my foreskin back on.”
Spring break of 2015 was originally scheduled for March 23 through March 29, the same week in which Yom Avodah is to take place. Yom Avodah is actually only a 24-hour holiday. However, the entire week following winter quarter had to be kept clear of breaks due to the specific date on which Yom Avodah falls not being certain. “The whole week had to be sacrificed in order to cover our bases,” said Hillel director Cohen. “We have a general idea of when Yom Avodah will happen next year based on past occurrences– sometime during the last full week of March, but as far as what day of the week it falls on, we won’t know until it gets here, and we certainly don’t want any Jews relaxing on that day.” The uncertainty stems from the fact that Jewish holidays are based on a lunar calendar, so the exact date on which they occur varies annually. “At this point, the date of Yom Avodah is up in the air,” continued Cohen. “Because that’s where the moon is.”
Some worry that the new scheduling will have undesirable consequences. The one-week curtailment of spring break could prove detrimental as it restricts the amount of rest students receive to recover from ten weeks of poorly-taught lectures and unreasonably difficult exams. How detrimental it will be, though, is hard to say. The matter is currently being analyzed by several of UCLA’s physical science departments. UCLA mathematics professor Duane Weng reported: “If my calculations are correct, the new scheduling scheme will reduce the amount of rest days students receive between quarters from 7 days to 0 days. Spring break is one week long. The new schedule calls for a subtraction of one week from the currently existing spring break. One week minus one week equals zero. The students will have no more vacation.” Weng’s findings have yet to be verified, but the preliminary data has raised concerns nonetheless.
Upon hearing that they would have no spring break whatsoever next year, many students expressed discontent. “For me, spring break is time to decompress,” said 2nd-year Economics major Tito Ordonez. “I spend two-plus months crammed in a res hall triple, and I need that week-long break to get my limbs stretched back out.” Additional time for high knees, though, was not the only reason cited by students for disapproval of the new schedule. 3rd-year psychology major Lacie Edmonds said, “Many of my friends use spring break as a chance to earn some extra cash. You know, to help finance their education. I don’t know what they’re going to do now that we don’t have a spring break. I mean, how are they supposed to pay off their student loans without that wet t-shirt contest prize money?” Other students have complained that, without a spring break, they won’t have any time to think about how this change might affect them.
Students are not the only ones unhappy with the UC’s decision. Popular spring break vacation destinations figure to take a substantial hit if thousands of students are absent from their visitor pools. As a result, the Cancun and Las Vegas tourism boards have teamed up to create a Kickstarter to “purchase every Jew a standard Gregorian calendar”. The crowdfund already has several thousand backers.
The new scheduling change by the UC administration also comes on the heels of their decision to shorten winter break in observance of Rosh Hoshanah and Yom Kippur. Many people have questioned whether it is right of the UC administration to show preference for the Jewish community in trying to avoid scheduling conflicts with their holidays. In response to allegations of preferential treatment for certain religions, UC official Teri Barker cited the scheduling changes made by the UC administration in 2009 in accommodation of Muslim students for Ramadan. She also added that a plan was currently in the works to truncate summer break of 2016 in observance of the Satanist holiday of Lucifermas.