It was heartwarming to see people of all different faiths crowd Temple Beth El on Nov. 2 for Shabbat services. The tremendous show of support demonstrated that Mainers want to stand with religious and racial minorities in our community as we all battle against hate. Coming to the synagogue was a wonderful first step, but we have to do more.

One important step has been taken by the Policy Committee of the Augusta School Board, which just passed a policy to accommodate religious beliefs and holidays. For nearly a year, a multi-faith community group has worked to research and craft a policy that helps to ensure that students of all religious faiths feel welcome and supported in the school system. The policy calls for publishing a few of the most important holidays from each faith tradition on the school calendar and not penalizing students for missing school for religious holidays. This policy empowers teachers and administrators by giving them knowledge about when important holidays are so that they can take the holidays into account (as they are able) when scheduling schoolwide activities such as parent-teacher conferences and field trips.

Three local school boards — Regional School Units 2 and 38, and Winthrop — have passed similar policies recently. On Wednesday, Nov. 14, the entire Augusta School Board will vote on this policy. I urge them to support it. This is a thoughtful, reasonable policy that costs nothing yet sends a powerful message about recognizing and respecting the diverse religions in our midst. That message is vitally important in these times.

Rabbi Erica Asch


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