The school board of Farmington in Hartford County in central Connecticut on Monday night told an audience of about 200 parents it was changing its decision to remove Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur from its 2023 academic calendar. The decision followed more than an hour of complaints from the parents who called the initial decision insensitive. Some parents called for bringing back Diwali, too, which the board promised to consider.
In mid-November, the Farmington school board voted unanimously that Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah would no longer be days off for the district. Board Chairwoman Liz Fitzsimmons said many factors were involved in the decision, including operational impact, student absences, state and federal law, and issues related to extending the school year.
Same for Diwali, a.k.a. the Festival of Lights, one of the most important Hindu festivals, which lasts five to six days and is celebrated during the Hindu lunisolar months of Ashvin and Kartika (that’s mid-October and mid-November to you and me).
I looked up Kwanzaa on the school board’s website and found only this reference: “Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, the new year or a combination of these holidays or others, there is little doubt that this year will be different.” But the article was from 2020.
I checked out the Farmington Board of Education. It is a nine-member elected board, responsible for the maintenance and operation of the public schools of Farmington as required by law and the Town Charter. Then I checked out the members, and they are eight mommies and only one daddy, Bill Beckert. But he chairs the policy committee and is on the communications committee (the chair is Beth Kintner).
Board Chairwoman Elizabeth Fitzsimmons told the 200 parents: “I also wanted to express my heartfelt sorrow that our actions on November 14 will cost portions of our community to feel hurt. For that, I’m sorry.”
Tell that to the Hindus. Suraj Kurtakoti, a Farmington parent, told Eyewitness News 3: “Sort of an excuse I would say, for lack of a better word. But if something falls on the weekend, I think they should consider the next weekday. It also gives us a community to think of someone who doesn’t celebrate to reflect on it and make it more inclusive for the rest of us.”
It’s a five-to-six-day holiday, man, even the Jews of Farmington don’t demand time off for Sukkot. If anyone in Farmington celebrates Sukkot. I looked up Chabad of the Farmington Valley, and they’re in Weatogue, nine miles away. In town, you’ll find Congregation Beth Israel (Reform), Temple Sinai (Reform), and the Society for Humanistic Judaism advocating a philosophy that combines a non-theistic and humanistic outlook with the celebration of Jewish culture and identity while adhering to secular values and ideas.
So, probably no sukkahs.
Board member Christine Arnold complained: “This board has been subject to horrible personal attacks and attempts to disparage our reputations. I have never believed that our community would behave this way and I was so wrong.” When members of the audience shouted “apologize” at Arnold, Chairwoman Fitzsimmons threatened to kick everyone out of the auditorium.
According to the Hartford Courant, “A police officer stood at the back of the room throughout the night, and three police cars idled in the parking lot.”
Just in case. You never know. Those Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur advocates could turn violent.