U. of Maryland holds alt-graduation for Shabbat observers
For the first time, 22 Jewish students and families who observe the day of rest are given an alternative option
Yaakov Schwartz is The Times of Israel's deputy Jewish World editor.
It’s a common conundrum for observant Jews getting ready to depart the hallowed halls of the academy for the rat race: What to do when college graduation ceremonies fall on Saturday?
At University of Maryland, just over half of the school’s 34 graduation ceremonies were scheduled to be held on Saturday this year, which put a damper on celebrations for a number of the school’s 6,000 Jewish students.
So how do the Sabbath-sensitive celebrate the end of four years of term papers and tests?
With a solution in mind, Rabbi Eli Backman, director of UMD Chabad, and Rabbi Ari Israel, director of the university’s Hillel, reached out to the university’s administration, who were only too happy to arrange alternate accommodations.
This past Sunday, 22 Shabbat-observant graduates paraded down the aisle in caps and gowns for a slightly delayed, but Sabbath-friendly graduation their families could proudly attend.
“These are students I have been very close friends with for the last four years. I have taken classes with many of them. But more importantly, I have lived, eaten, learned, and observed Shabbat and holidays with them,” said Rebecca Grossman, a graduating electrical engineering major who helped organize the event.
The ceremony came complete with opening remarks by Hillel director Israel and a commencement speech. Students were presented their diplomas by the associate provost, who is also dean for undergraduate students.
“As you progress in life, remember how you clung steadfast to your Jewish principles, and you were able to graduate without compromising your beliefs,” Backman said in closing.
“There will be moments ahead which challenge you, but remember that you can remain true to both your profession and your faith,” he said.
All in all, it was a satisfying solution for the young members of the Tribe. If only things were so simple for Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.