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December 29, 1989 - Image 96

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-12-29

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

I ANN ARBOR)

Ann Arbor Studies
`Cultural Diversity'

"The bride will be
studying in Israel
while . . ."

SUSAN LUDMER-GLIEBE

Special to The Jewish News

T

"L'chaim and
may we see
much nachas
from . . ."

e fi;fioet:
BARTENURA
9:4;A-woof un, f.ot,

s". 4 1./ zw•

vox 1,64.4iiwzyVs. ft. , a4 read/0,v-
pia30:1*.
IS/ABER°

•:.:4 "He was
pitching
a no-hitter
and then in
the bottom
of the
seventh . . ."

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en months ago, in a
move consistent with
the Ann Arbor public
School's commitment to
pluralism, the board of educa-
tion approved a series of
guidelines for religious
observances.
Some 195 religious organ-
izations reviewed guidelines,
including the Interfaith
Council for Peace, the Ann
Arbor Jewish Community
Association and the
American Civil Liberties
Union.
The
board-approved
guidelines included a calen-
dar of major Jewish, Chris-
tian, Moselm and Buddhist
holidays. On major holidays,
giving exams or holding
special events was prohibited
and interscholastic athletic
matches or tryouts were re-
quired to be re-scheduled.
Three weeks after the new
guidelines were in place this
fall, seven athletic events
were scheduled on Rosh
Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
They included two varsity
football games, two girls
swim meets, a pair of soccer
games and a golf match.
Although some school ad-
ministrators knew about the
violations, they took no ac-
tion. Only when the board of
education met during the last
week in September did they
learn about the conflict. At
that point, most members of
the board felt it was too late
to re-schedule the activities
but all nine wanted to insure
that the problem did not arise
again.
"I was appalled," says
Richard Benjamin,
superintendent. "It represen-
ed a serious breech of our
commitment to multi-
culturalism." Although Ben-
jamin said that he did not
know whether the athletic
departments knowingly ig-
nored board policy, he did say
the incident indicated a
"negligent casualness."
According to Susan Schultz,
equity advocate for the Ann
Arbor Public Schools, during
the 1988-1989 school year 55
harassment cases, including
racist and anti-Semitic in-
cidents, were brought to her
office.
Schultz says those figures
can be read in a positive as
well as a negative light. "Peo-
ple feel the policy allows them
to raise issues that previous-
ly had not been brought up."

Ann Arbor isn't alone in its
difficulties. "I think that this
year I could have made a liv-
ing at looking at requests for
every kind of assistance ad-
dressing multi-cultural
education," jokes Richard
Loebenthal, Michigan
regional director of the Anti-
Defamation league of B'nai
B'rith. Loebenthal says that
the interest in such pluralism
is quite recent. Although
there have been some cases
such as in Okemos, where
parents complained about the
lack of Christmas celebra-
tions in the schools or in
Rochester where teachers
went around school policy and
bought tickets for Christmas
Story, overall the schools are
being responsive.
"By and large most people
in the school districts unders-
tand the impropriety of con-

Seven athletic
events were
scheduled on Rosh
Hashanah and Yom
Kippur. They
included two
varsity football
games, two girls
swim meets.

verting schools into chur-
ches," Lobenthal says. "Fur-
thermore they're responding
to the change from an all-
white Christian population to
a multi-religious, multi-
ethnic, multi-national popula-
tion."
But there is no single idea
for how this should be mark-
ed. "Some of the community
does not agree whether
holidays should be
celebrated," says Nancy
Margolis, interim director of
the United Jewish Appeal/
Jewish Community Associa-
tion of Washtenaw County.
Some Ann Arbor Jewish
parents think schools should
be closed on Yom Kippur.
Ironically, they were this year
because a teacher in-service
was scheduled. Some people
suggest this occurred to ap-
pease Jewish school board
members because schools
were closed last spring on
Good Friday for an in-service
day. Others think that the
holidays need to be recogniz-
ed as holy days but that their
obersvance should remain a
private occasion. And the
perennial issue of Sabbath
observance — Friday night for
Jews — and extra-curricular
activities has yet to be
resolved.

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