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A Minor Distraction

01/29/2020 12:33:33 PM


Dear Houston,

Some of you may have received (or at least heard about) a survey sent to all HISD parents, asking folks to vote on the date of the 2020 Fall holiday.  Since I moved to Houston in 2011, I have understood that this day has purposefully been scheduled for either Rosh Hashanah day or Yom Kippur day.  From this Rabbi’s perspective, it had always struck me as quite sensitive and endearing that this was the process by which the HISD board would choose its Fall Holiday.  Now this understanding, has a lot to do with assumptions.  Here are my assumptions:

  1. We live in a secular world.
  2. HISD observes a Fall holiday.
  3. Seeing as how Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur usually fall in and around when the Fall holiday would be scheduled, this was a convenient way of determining the date. 
  4. The decision has historically been made by someone in the HISD lay or professional world and has been decided years in advance (since of course, I can tell you when Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur will take place in 2039.  If you’re interested, its September 19 and 28).
  5. Most people forget how Jewish days work, (including Jews,) such that when the calendar folks who produced for example, your “Costumed Cats” calendar had the good sense to include some of the biggest Jewish holidays, the chances they got the day right are about 50/50.  See, the Jewish day starts in the evening so if your secular calendar shows “Rosh Hashanah,” you’ll want to check if that is printed on the day of which the holiday starts at night (RH eve, for example) or the day on which the day will end at sunset (RH day, for example!) 



I don’t know what “inspired” the HISD leadership this year to put this question to a vote, but here is my advice to them, if they are inclined to listen:

  1. We Jews don’t expect that HISD will structure its calendar around ours.  We do expect that if our holy day falls on a day when a big test or assignment is given or is due, that if necessary, the HISD leadership will go to the mat to protect our children.  (I know we Jews have a whole heck of a lot of holidays, but we are really only talking about a few that could present challenges.)
  2. If indeed HISD wishes to build its calendar around ours, use a lifeline.  You can email me at and I will be happy to provide expert guidance.
  3. In case you are actually wondering, to make it abundantly clear, Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the Jewish calendar.  While Rosh Hashanah is important, we get to eat on this first day of the year.  Yom Kippur, the 10th day of the Jewish year, is so important, we don’t eat, drink, engage in physical pleasure or even wear leather, in order that our minds and hearts are undistracted from the soulful themes we must focus on.  (For this year, Yom Kippur starts on the evening of Sunday, September 27 and runs through the day of September 28 (thus making September 28 the ideal day, for we Jews, for HISD to schedule the Fall holiday).
  4. Don’t ask the world to decide which day is most important to the Jews.  We know and we’ll be happy to tell you if you just ask.


With love and a bit of chutzpah (Yiddish for nerve, kindly offered),

Rabbi Scott Hausman-Weiss

Sat, June 6 2020 14 Sivan 5780