Inside an old volume I found an envelope containing a letter dated Oct. 1, 1973. It represents a snapshot of the starkly different reality American Orthodox Jews faced only several decades ago.
The letter, written by Rabbi Avigdor Miller on the letterhead of his synagogue, Young Israel of Rugby, was presumably addressed to the employer of one of his congregants. It reads, “Please be advised that Mr. Harvey L. will not be able to be present at work on October 11, 12, 18, 19, 1973 because he will be observing a religious Jewish holiday of Succoth.”
While today we hear of shomer Shabbat baseball players, senators and ambassadors, life for a shomer Shabbat Jew in the United States was often an uphill battle. It appears that in this case, the employer needed proof that there actually was a religious obligation preventing the employee from being present at work.