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The Difference: Men and Women at Passover, and Beyond

I teach at URI—University of Rhode Island. This year, three important events and one meeting I should have attended were scheduled for the afternoon of March 31, directly before the beginning of Pesach.

I was very puzzled by this, because in each case the Gentile convenors of the events were people whom I knew to be sensitive to Jewish concerns. One was our Protestant chaplain, another was our director of the Multicultural Center and another was my department chair. When I asked them why they had scheduled events on the afternoon before Passover, each one told me that they had consulted Jewish members of each of the groups and in every case the Jews—all males—told them that our holiday didn’t start until sunset, so they could schedule the meetings. When I asked my Jewish colleagues why they had given this misleading information to our Gentile colleagues, they were annoyed that I’d make an issue of this. I wonder how they would have reacted if their wives had taken similarly cavalier attitudes to the preparation of the Seder meal.

Oyyyyyyyy!

If you ask most Jewish men if the afternoon before Passover is an acceptable time to have a meeting, they will almost invariably say “yes” because what most Jewish men do on Passover is show up at the dining table, fork in hand. I have explained to each of the Gentiles involved that most women, even marginally observant women, engage in extensive preparations, including cleaning, ritual cleaning as well as the preparation of the biggest feast in the Jewish calendar. As a result of this experience, I have prepared a guide to the Jewish holidays. I plan to publish it twice a year on our faculty e-mail list, before the High Holydays and Pesach, every year until I retire!

Here I will just say: Oyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!