A Jersey City school board meeting ended with a vote to keep schools open for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, although the decision did not come without argument.
When the Jersey City Board of Education had initially proposed the idea of closing area schools for Eid al-Adha, one of the most important Muslim holidays, they had received the full support of the City Council. In order to make up the missed day of classes, the academic year would have been extended by one day, causing the last day of school to become June 23, 2016.
However, the board meeting resulted in almost four hours of debate over the issue, with a number of Jewish families arguing that the move was discriminatory against their faith, as they did not receive days off for holidays such as Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, writes Brian Thompson for NBC New York.
As the meeting dragged on, and the board had still not decided to close schools for the holiday, Muslim community members reported feeling "alienated from the Board of Education," and almost walked out in frustration.
In the original resolution announcing the vote, the board said it was "committed to honoring the great diversity of our district, including our religious diversity," and that it will "continue to engage our communities to explore ways to support its diverse communities and celebrate our many cultures and faiths."
The meeting eventually ended with the board saying they could not interrupt the lives of others.
"Doing this at this point on six days notice for this upcoming holiday is going to cause undue hardship on 5,000 to 10,000 people who are going to have to scramble to get coverage for their children," said board member Gerald Lyons.
The board added that students are welcome to take days off from school for religious observance without punishment, and that it would rethink changing its religious holiday policy later in the year.
Mayor Steve Fulop called the decision a "missed opportunity" to celebrate the cultural diversity found within the city, adding that there would have not been a "down side" to the move.
"It works for our neighbor," he said, referring to New York City, which this year is closing schools for Eid al-Adha for the first time. "I think that it was a missed opportunity to really educate people about the cultural diversity that's Jersey City."
According to an announcement made by Mayor de Blasio earlier in the year, schools in New York City are closing for the Muslim holidays for the first time.