The Prince George's County Board of Education voted unanimously last night to return the Jewish celebration of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, to the school calendar as a holiday.
The board had removed the holiday from the calendar last month and passed a resolution recognizing Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, as the highest of Jewish holy days, and made it a permanent school holiday, although this year it falls on a Saturday (Sept. 17), when school is not held.
The decision brought protests from some members of the Jewish community who criticized the board as "insensitive" at its March 31 meeting. Board members met with several representives of the county Jewish community on Monday.
"Originally they were trying to reach some consistency regarding the Jewish high holy days, but they weren't fully informed about their nature," said Rabbi Gary Fink of the Jewish Congregation of Laurel last night.
"Once they realized that their information was incomplete they responded with sensitivity and with great concern," said Fink.
All county schools and offices will be closed on Rosh Hashanah, which falls on Sept. 8, a Thursday, this year.
Board member Bonnie Johns pointed out that the decision to observe Rosh Hashanah came during the week in which the World War II Holocaust was commemorated at a meeting of survivors in Washington. She proposed and the board agreed that the designation of the school holiday should be considered "a historical tribute to the Jewish community based on their contributions to America."
"I did it because I didn't want it to seem that we created a religious holiday," said Johns, who said she was concerned about maintaining the constitutional separation between church and state.