Being Jewish was never hard for me. I grew up in a town where a disproportionately large percentage of the population was openly Jewish, where everyone knew what a Synagogue was and where to find them, and where the Jewish holidays were days off from school.
That's not to say I didn't go out of my way to practice Judaism. When we had off for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, I spent the days in services, cell phone off, computer unplugged until the holiday was over, or I fasted for the 25 hours, neither eating nor drinking, while Jewish friends of mine chose to observe differently, or not at all. I kept Kosher my senior year to an extent to which I never had before, removing cafeteria meat from my diet and adhering to a strictly vegetarian menu outside of my home.
Granted, I did not practice as strictly as others might have. I did not keep the Sabbath, save for the high holidays; I did not fast on other fasts, save Yom Kippur; I did not go to services, save occasional celebrations and unique occasions. But nonetheless I was Jewish, in both identification and practice. It wasn't hard to be so.
When I learned that Tufts University housed a population approximately one quarter Jewish, I knew that not much was going to change. I was matriculating from one pretty Jewish school to another. Hillel was going to be big on campus, and Jewish life was going to be pretty regular.
Then again, maybe not. Rosh Hashanah starts tonight - and of my 4 courses scheduled during the holiday, 1 has chosen to give us the day off. In American Politics, I'll be missing a lecture; I can grab the slideshow offline. But for Calculus? Brand new material. No problem though, I can come to office hours: directly after class. Uh, oh.
Then take Kashrut. No big deal at home, but here? No meat intake, save once a week shabbat dinners. That means 1/20 meals is meat. I now have to be protein-conscious, something that wasn't much of an issue when I ate 2 meals a day at home in high school.
There are accommodations, for sure. Do I need to look hard to find services? No way, Hillel's there for that. Can teachers give tests during the holidays? No, but that just means I'm guaranteed to miss lecture, as opposed to something easy to make up. Clubs? Most offer alternate audition or meeting times in respect of the conflict.
But still, it's going to take some effort. Be it eating the right foods, explaining why I can't come to dinner Friday night, or, my least favorite, missing the next lesson in Calculus II, being Jewish went from something that I could do passively to something I have to decide to do, actively. I considered going to classes, I considered not taking notes but just listening in, but ultimately, I want to be in services with the shofar, the apples and honey, and the other Jewish people. So I've made my decisions, and we'll see how it goes.
I'm not nearly crazy enough to suggest that "G-d will support me" or anything like that. I'm making my choices because I want the experiences. Í'm taking off, it's up to me to make that work.
I find no reason why any institution should show particular respect to religious holidays; in fact, it's odd that, should I wish for a project extension due my absence because of a traditional family trip to Mexico, this would not be granted (one cannot merely take vacations), yet, should I wish for an extension due to absence because of a traditional family religious celebration, of course, by all means! It's kind of silly; religion isn't something to be revered or endorsed by academic establishments, it's a mere collection of rituals or beliefs. No one would get special treatment for being Republican or practicing Yoga, but slap G-d's name on a belief or custom and step back: there's something sacred about it now. A bit odd, no?
Ah well, enough about that. Shana Tova to all, a happy and health new year, and keep me posted on things in your lives as I, after all, keep posting about mine.